Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness and nutrition courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+.
You’re well on your way to optimal health and happiness — exercising daily, sleeping adequately, eating mindfully and drinking lots of water. Now, learn to master your mind at crunch time with these two strategies recommended by Toronto, Ontario-based clinical psychologist Stephanie Bot.
Use Guided Imagery
When you’re feeling stressed, instead of reaching for unhealthy snacks take a few moments to ground your thoughts. Remember that feeling of pure, utter bliss you experienced on your last beach vacation – the ocean breeze, the warmth of the sun and the absence of all your worries? Use that memory to help you unwind in your everyday life. “Take a deep breath in through your nose, and out through your mouth very slowly,” Bot says. “And then try to think about something that brings you calm and peace, and focus on that imagery while you continue to breathe.”
Try to do this each day — be it pre-work or at bedtime. “Meditation and deep breathing is a skill like anything else, and you need to work up to it,” she says. “Start with five minutes for a week, and build up to 10. Then, try to get to 20 or 30 minutes.” If you have difficulty doing this on your own, Bot recommends purchasing guided imagery DVDs or podcasts to help you along.
Tip: Focus on incorporating all your senses – such as remembering the scent of the sunscreen, the color of the sky and the sound of the waves.
Create Your Own Mantra
Recite your own personalized mantras to help get through stressful moments. Your mind can only handle one thought at a time, she says, so choose something fun and optimistic to help you push through. Feel anxious about those extra pounds? Find your own stay cool statement, such as “I am the fittest gal around!” You may laugh now, but it works! Soon you’ll see those pounds melt away.
Tip: Brainstorm and jot down several mantras. Choose something that makes you feel confident and in control. For example:
- Struggling with your diet? Say, “This chocolate will not tell me what to do.”
- If your house is in total disarray, remember, “Nobody has ever died from a messy home.”
- Feeling inundated with work? Find your own stay-cool statement such as, “I rock at doing this job.”