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Healthy New You

5 Keys to Managing Health and Wellness During a Stressful Time

These five tips can help keep your mind and body in shape during tough times.

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When the world seems dark, your mind is foggy and motivation is low, it may feel like health and wellness is the last thing on your priority list.

For example, we’re still living in the remnants of a pandemic and through hostile times in the world. It can be hard to stay focused on health and wellness when your family, friends and co-workers are also trying to make sense of what’s happening in the world around them.

I invite you to take a deep breath right now and review the following five tips that can help you stay in better shape mentally — and physically — during tough times. 

1. Put the Phone Down

I know this sounds crazy, but one of the most common reasons people end up feeling unmotivated is too much connection. If the first thing you do when you wake up is grab your phone to see what everyone else is doing in the world, you’re giving up control of your mind to your device.  Once you scroll through those perfectly filtered pictures, within seconds you can feel like a failure because someone is up earlier than you and doing something you wish you were doing. Or worse, you come up on one of those viral videos where someone is getting beat down while others laugh all around them. All of a sudden, you get an overwhelming surge that our world is coming to an end and that’s it, your mind freezes, your desire to be better is lowered, and now you’re locked into the never ending “feed.” We have opened our mind space to be molded by words, and pictures that aren’t our own.

Instead, try this: when you wake up, open your eyes, give thanks, take a deep cleansing breath and set an intention for the day. Even if it’s just to tidy up the closet shoe rack, give yourself some direction. Take the time to connect to yourself and give thanks for the things you do have in that moment. Kiss the person next to you, smile at your dog and thank them for their loyalty. Begin to be aware of the things around you and mold your own mind space.

2. Find Your Workout

Many people don’t stick to a fitness routine because they force themselves to do a workout they don’t even like. Why?! For goodness sake, people do goat yoga — there’s something for everyone! Find what you like to do and connect with it. Don’t fall in the trap of focusing on what burns more fat or what boasts the best results. If you don’t like doing 30 seconds of box jumps and burpees, don’t do it.

Instead, there is a huge community of folks out there and endless apps doing exercises and hosting classes. Google some and get to it! Try a few different workouts and see what makes you move.  Your main focus should be movement, especially during this time. This is how you can ignite your feel-good endorphins and feel like you are winning the day. Go out for a walk every day, stretch in the sun, do some gardening, clean out your garage, play with your children. Just move your body.

3.  Don’t Buy All the Snacks

If you’re worried about gaining weight during a stressful time in your life, don’t keep your snack pantry stocked. I’m not saying you can’t have dessert or an indulgent meal on occasion, but if you reach for those comfort snacks every night of the week with no daily calorie expenditure, you’ll start to feel crappy.

Eating some protein will put you in a better space from a nutritional standpoint and it will keep you satisfied longer. I am also an advocate for eating a meal instead of a snack. If you are hungry, that’s fine — make sure to eat once and feel satiated, but don’t eat a bunch of small things and still end up feeling hungry.

Instead, try to alternate between fruit and baked goods, whole grain carbs and not potato chips, lean meats instead of cold cuts and nut butters, and of course water instead of juices and sodas.

4. Say NO to Daily Cocktails

During times of great stress or depression, a lot of people reach for alcohol to de-stress. But using it as an outlet daily may come back to haunt you.

The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website details the fundamental dangers of excessive drinking. Surprisingly, damage done by alcohol may show up years down the line. The amount of damage to your tissues and cells is unknown, not to mention you end up placing yourself at higher risk of inflammation that brings about high blood pressure, hepatitis of the liver, pancreatitis, cancer and, of course, a suppressed immune system. When you’re stressed, upset and dealing with a pandemic, you need your immune system sharp.

Instead, start creating a healthy habit of getting close to a gallon of fresh water or its equivalent every day. Before bed, start trading your nightly nightcap for a bedtime tea, a piece of fruit, some warm milk. Create a habit that is in alignment with making a better choice for your body.

5. Quality Rest

Whether it’s because of a pandemic, a life event or a stage of bad mental health, you need rest.

Now more than ever, a lot of us aren’t getting quality sleep because we’re staying up late stressing, drinking too much caffeine, consuming alcohol too often or just having racing thoughts. Even if you go to bed early and get up later, quality of sleep will always win over quantity in my opinion — and that involves the habits you have during the day.

Instead, start creating a mindful habit of going to bed where you can get 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Journaling before bed to set intentions and goals, drinking some warm tea, listening to relaxing music, and a blacked-out room free of blue light are all things you can do to ensure a relaxing and peaceful sleep.