Filed under: Chronic Disease, Healthy Lifestyle, weight loss | Tags: overwork, relaxation, stress, weight gain, weight loss, work/life balance
Are you working longer and harder than ever? Do you struggle to get enough sleep? To find time to cook? To relax? To look away from your phone for more than 20 minutes at a time, because important work emails may come in, even on a Sunday?
If you’re answering, “Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes,” you may have also noticed that you’ve put on a few pounds over the past few years. Or that your anxiety levels have kicked up. Or that you’re always tired, no matter what. Or any other number of changes to your health.
Overwork and the deterioration of our health are closely related. Numerous studies have borne this out. And you likely know it on an intuitive level. But what can be done?
If your job is stressing you to the breaking point, you have two choices–find work you love or a way to love the work you have. If you dread going to work every day, and it’s been that way for a long time, think about whether this is really the job or career for you. Make a list of pros and cons about your job, and if the cons outweigh the pros, it may be time to either seek a similar job elsewhere, or think about what you really want to be doing with your life. Our time on this earth is short–do you really want to spend most of your time on it doing something that makes you unhappy?
If you’re not currently happy at your job but feel it truly isn’t possible to leave at the moment, then think about what steps you can take to improve your current situation. If your workload is killing you, speak with your supervisor and see what can be done to potentially lighten the load or get you support, and identify any time-wasters in your day and then eliminate them. Communication, planning, and smart time management can go a long way in helping you get through your day’s tasks. And it can really help to manage others’ expectations—if you’re routinely at work at 9 p.m., people will just come to expect that that’s what you do, and wouldn’t think twice about shooting you a work email at that hour. You may want to ask your boss—if he or she emails you over the weekend, are they hoping that you’ll deal with their request then and there? Some bosses don’t expect that—they just send the email over the weekend because they’re thinking about that particular issue and want to send the email while it’s fresh in their mind, expecting that you’ll get to it when back in the office on Monday.
With today’s seemingly endless work days, it’s more important than ever that we allow time for self-care, fun, and pleasure in our lives. If you have to schedule time for yourself into your calendar, then do it! Allow yourself time to browse your local greenmarket. Treat yourself to a massage. Sit at an outdoor café and linger over a cup of tea and the Sunday paper. Try out a new recipe you saw online. You get the idea. Whatever you choose, just know that these small steps to help you de-stress and care for yourself will make a big difference over time when it comes to your health—both mental and physical.
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, weight loss | Tags: deep breathing, relaxation, stress, vagus nerve, weight loss
New Yorkers work hard. We love to be busy and talk about how busy we are, and then we grouse about how stressed out we feel. If advice is offered to some of us type As about how to scale back and find a little time for ourselves, we will explain why we simply can’t do that, that it’s not possible to change anything, and that we just have to continue on and somehow survive on five hours of sleep and takeout Pad Thai.
And then we wonder why we can’t drop the 20 pounds we’ve put on in the past two years.
The fact is, stress makes us fat. And actively releasing that stress and relaxing can help us lose weight, in a way that all the steamed broccoli and skinless chicken breast in the world can’t.
Stress activates a biological response that makes us feel hungry (which is why so many of us stress eat). Carbs and sugar are particularly appealing when we’re stressed. And stress leads to increased storage of belly fat.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to counteract these forces conspiring to make us fat is to practice deep breathing. If you take a deep breath, you stimulate your vagus nerve, a nerve connected to your fat cells, stem cells and all the organs and tissues in your body. Stimulating this nerve turns on the production of hormones that calm your nervous system, reduce the stress hormone cortisol, kick start your metabolism, and regulate your appetite, according to Dr. Mark Hyman, a leader in the field of functional medicine. The simple act of taking deep breaths essentially leads to an increased level of fat burning.
So make some time on a regular basis to meditate, do yoga, or simply sit and breathe, without distraction. Even five minutes a day can make a difference. And who doesn’t have time for that?
Filed under: Chronic Disease, Healthy Lifestyle | Tags: how to de-stress, relaxation, stress
Stressed? Here are 16 simple ways to defuse your tension in a hurry—none of which requires a trip to the vending machine for chocolate …
Try a “one-minute meditation.” Close your eyes. For 30 seconds, inhale and exhale quickly, forcefully, and audibly. Each inhale/exhale cycle should last about 1 second total. After doing that for 30 seconds, for the next 30 seconds keep your eyes closed and breathe normally. Then open your eyes. How do you feel?
Sit on your hands or rub them together vigorously. Our hands get colder when we’re stressed, and warming them up helps lower stress.
Try acupressure. Find the spot on the top of your bare foot where the bones of your first and second toes meet. Gently press this area 10 times.
Say no. If you’re already feeling stressed, don’t be afraid to say no if someone asks you to do something you can’t handle.
Turn off the news. It’s easy to feel like part of the chaos we’re watching on TV or on the computer. Research has shown that watching the news can affect mood and aggravate sadness and depression.
Laugh. Laughing dissolves tension and can feel like a real release, even in the most stressful situations.
Put on some upbeat music. And if you’re in a place where you can get away with it, dance!
Smile at other people. Our moods are contagious–if you come across as happy and pleasant, chances are people will be pleasant back to you.
Have half a teaspoon of honey. Doing this will quickly help stimulate serotonin in the brain, leading to a calmer, happier feeling.
Realize that worrying doesn’t make things better. So stop worrying.
At the end of your day, take five minutes to write down the things you appreciated about that day. Calling up positive emotions will help push away negativity and stress.
Make a conscious choice not to become angry or upset. You may not be able to control everything happening around you, but you do have control over your response to any given situation. Take a few deep breaths. Then think about what can be done to resolve the situation, rather than focusing on how angry you are about it.
Do one simple thing that you’ve been putting off–whether it’s returning a phone call, paying a bill, or making a dentist appointment. Getting this thing off your mind will help you de-stress.
Vent to a friend for five minutes. Or write down your thoughts in a journal.
If you’re feeling anxious before bed and fear you won’t be able to get to sleep, have a cup of warm milk. It contains natural opiates called casomorphins.
Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Summer is often a time for play, time off, and much-deserved relaxation. Many of us use the summertime to rebuild our reserves for the rest of the busy year. In our work-crazed society, we can lose sight of the benefits of slowing down and taking time to rest. Now that summer is in full swing, it’s time to enjoy the restorative powers of reconnecting to your body through both movement and relaxation.
Our bodies love to move. Even though our bodies are healthiest when getting appropriate physical activity, we often feel dread and boredom when we hear the word “exercise.” Think for a moment of what type of movement you would consider fun as opposed to torturous. Perhaps you loathe the idea of a gym, but miss taking dance classes. Maybe you secretly want to try yoga or rollerblading. You could play touch football with your kids, walk with a neighbor in the mornings, or go for a swim. The summer offers so many choices–it’s simply up to you to choose which style of movement excites you. Your heart will benefit, your joints will feel less creaky, and you’ll sleep better at night.
Summer is a unique time of year when we can both relax and move out in nature. Take a nap in a hammock and enjoy the smell of freshly cut grass. Go to the park and read under a favorite tree. One of the greatest places to rest in the summertime is by the water. There is something about water that feels so restorative, and many of us naturally crave to be near it, by it, or in it. Heading to the water, whether it is the beach, a lake, or a pool, can be very rejuvenating.
Whether you are relaxing, exercising, or both, notice that being outside in nature has a way of quieting the mind and reconnecting us to ourselves. Often this relaxation and peace of mind are what our bodies crave the most in summer. So be sure to make time to both move, and not move!