Posts tagged #stress management

Meditate Your Way to Better Health

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With these newsletters I've been trying to strike a balance between nutrition and lifestyle tips. Health is about so much more than just nutrition. Your environment and your mindset make a huge difference as well.

That's why I wanted to talk a bit about meditation today. It's a powerful tool I use to reduce my stress, improve my concentration, and ultimately achieve the balance I need in my life to experience my best health.

My favorite time to meditate is before I leave for work each morning. When I don't have time to meditate, or I miss multiple days in a row because of a trip, I can truly feel the difference. I'm easily agitated, more prone to anxiety, and don't have the normal sense of calm and emotional resiliency I usually experience on days when I meditate.

These days I dedicate 20-30 minutes a day to meditation, but I definitely didn't start out that way. And some days I only have time for 2-5 minutes of focused breathing before heading out the door. It still works better than skipping meditation completely and helps bring focus to my day.

Over time, I've also become better at listening to the cues my body is giving. When the muscles in my jaw, neck, or shoulders are tense, or my breathing is shallow, I know I need to pause and take a few deep breaths. Meditation doesn't have to be a long guided experience in a quiet space every time. It can look very different every day depending on what you feel you need. 

The only health benefit I knew of before I gave meditation a try was that it helped with anxiety. I began to notice many changes in my life, and when I dug into why I began to understand the true power of meditation.

Did you know meditation can:

  • Lower blood pressure & improve chronic illness
  • Increase the gray matter in areas of your brain responsible for learning and memory and the regulation of emotions (check out the study here)
  • Reduce stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Decrease negative emotions/increase feelings of positivity
  • Improve concentration & focus

…and the list goes on

It's pretty incredible that paying attention to your breath and your mind can have such a profound impact on your life.

There are many different types of meditation as well. The one you likely hear about most is called mindfulness. This is what I practice most commonly. Mindfulness is the practice of being in the present moment and non-judgmentally paying attention to your thoughts, sensations, and experience.  Mindfulness meditations are typically guided by someone telling you what to pay attention to, but they can be unguided as well once you get the hang of it.

If mindfulness doesn't seem like a good fit, there are many other types of meditation available.

Here's an overview of 23 different meditation types if you're interested in exploring more of them. They all have different methods and benefits, so there's surely one out there that will resonate well with you.

Think you're ready to give it a try? Here are some apps I recommend:

  • Headspace: I got started with Headspace using their Take 10 program, which is 10 minutes a day for 10 days. It really helps you understand how to meditate using the mindfulness strategy.
  • Insight Timer: This is my favorite app these days. It's kind of like social media for meditation. You can see ratings and reviews and you can even see what meditations your friends are doing if you connect with people. There are over 2 millions meditations available and many different types as well. They're all organized by category and you can filter by length of meditation.
  • Calm: I got into this app after Headspace. All the meditations are by the same woman, so if you like her voice, you're golden! I love to go to the calm website while I'm working and turn on the nature sounds (called scenes) for calming background noise.

As always, I'm here to help when you're ready to take your health to the next level! I love helping my clients find balance in their lives so they can achieve their optimal health.

Posted on October 19, 2017 .

A Tip for Finding Freedom From Worrying

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I was recently listening to a podcast recommended to me by a friend who happens to be a runner. It was episode 188 of The Running Lifestyle Show. The topic was actually acupuncture, which I'll definitely be sharing more about in the future. The thing that really grabbed me was right at the end, and I knew I wanted to share it with you!

Health is SO much more than nutrition. It's also about sleep, movement, taking time for yourself, finding joy in life, and reducing stress.

Worrying can be a source of stress for many people, including myself from time to time. You know that feeling when you lay down to sleep and your mind starts racing? Or you wake up in the middle of the night and that flight you have to take or important conversation you need to have pop into your head? Here's an approach shared by Kari on the podcast to help calm your worrying, reduce your stress, and improve your sleep.

When a worry arises, acknowledge it and determine a specific time you'll dedicate to thinking about it. If it's the middle of the night, you might determine you'll think about it at 7am when you wake up. This will hopefully allow you to fall back to sleep without trying to get rid of the worry completely.

When the time you're dedicating to the worry arrives, do the following forecasting exercise:

Worst case scenario: what is the absolute worst thing that could happen?

Best case scenario: what is the best thing that could happen?

Most likely: What is the most likely thing to happen?

Chances are, the worst case scenario will rarely happen, but this exercise will help you think through and prepare for whatever you're worrying about.

Here's an example of how this could be applied in real life based on something that often causes me to worry. Job interviews always tend to be stressful for me, even when I know I'm a great fit for the job. It feels like there is a lot of pressure to be absolutely perfect in these situations.

Worst case scenario: I don't get this particular job and I have to continue my search.

Best case scenario: The interview goes amazingly well and I get offered the job on the spot.

Most likely: There are things I could've done differently, but overall I feel good about how it went and I'll hear back from the hiring manager soon.

Now, whenever I'm starting to worry or hear someone else worrying, I can give this forecasting exercise a try. I hope you find it as useful in your life as I've found it to be in mine.

Posted on August 22, 2017 and filed under stress, mindfulness.