The expression “look good, feel good” comes to mind as I kick off this series. It comes to mind because it’s backwards.
There’s nothing more important for looking good than feeling good. It all ties back to our health and there are a lot of elements that constitute our good health; what we eat, what we do to keep in shape, what we do for fun, what we do for work, who we surround ourselves with. For me, being healthy – and happy, because they’re one and the same – is taking care of myself from my head to my toes; my lungs, my heart, my muscles, my mind, my skin, my hair. Isolating one variable of our health – say, our cardiovascular health, so going for a run – is only caring for one piece of a much larger puzzle of our health, wellbeing, and ultimately, our happiness.
And why are health and happiness two sides of the same coin? If you’re interested, follow along with this series of posts.
I’m not a personal trainer or a dietician or a psychiatrist – but I do care about caring for myself and I love finding new ways to break a good sweat (I border on addiction here). For the past 8 + years – cue first year of university when it’s time to grow up (kind of), feed yourself, and make real lifestyle choices – I’ve had a huge love for and interest in all the pieces of our health picture and I’ve learned a lot along the way.
I want to share what I’ve learned and how I live because small changes can make huge changes in your everyday –and because when you feel good, you look good – and that feels good!
I’m going to start this series talking about stress because who isn’t stressed the f**k out? And stress is really unhealthy – bad for your body, bad for your brain. So, here are my 10 tips for tackling stress.
My Ten Tips for Tackling Stress
There are 101 different things competing for our time and energy at any given time and this can completely throw us off balance. It always amazes me how stress can take a toll on us physically – proof #1 that our minds and bodies work in unison. I personally get taken down with horrible headaches and am prone to tossing and turning at night, lying awake in my bed.
Mike and I moved to Toronto a year and half ago – new city, new jobs; a lot of change can be stressful and it definitely was! But, as an inherently stressed individual, I’ve discovered and put into practice some stress-ridding rituals along the way, which have done wonders for me:
- Break a sweat
Whether you’re a runner or a yogi or a skier, do what you enjoy to get those endorphins pumping through you. Endorphins interact with the receptors in our brains that reduce our perception of pain, but they also trigger some physiological functions, inducing that really good feeling we get during and after our work outs. Runners know this as the ‘runners’ high’.
I think the most important thing about being active is finding something you enjoy. You’re not going to get all of the positive effects if you’re forcing yourself to do something you hate. And if you hate it, you’re just not going to do it.
Hitting the gym also helps the body curb feelings of anxiety and depression and improves sleep – so, win-win-win.
On that note:
- Get your beauty sleep
I love a good siesta – and sleep is an important part of our health regimen; it affects us mentally and physically – how we think, work, react, socialize and learn. It’s involved in everything from healing and repairing our hearts and blood vessels to our thought processes.
But, if you’re anything like me, there’s a vicious cycle here. When I’m stressed, I can’t sleep and when I’m tired, I struggle to perform well at work, which stresses me out, and round and round it goes.
Which leads me to my next point:
- Power down
Turn off Netflix, get off your phone and do what you need to do to Zen-out before bed. I dim the lights, light a candle and read. I also like to drink herbal tea with valerian root in it – a herb helpful for sleep.
I like David’s Tea’s The Big Chill.
If you have a diffuser, I love infusing our bedroom with lavender oil. It’s a nice, relaxing scent. If you don’t have a diffuser, you can spritz the oil onto your pillow.
Finally, if stress kick-starts headaches for you, try out Saje’s Peppermint-Halo Oil, with peppermint, eucalyptus, rosemary and lavender oil. It comes in a lip-gloss-type tube made for rolling the oil over your temples, on your wrists and/or on the back of your neck – and it’s so revitalizing.
That being said, try to avoid rubbing the oil on your temples and wrists and then heading into a meeting. Your colleagues may look at you quizzically and wonder out loud why the boardroom smells like a yoga studio.
- Don’t eat garbage food
Our bodies are machines – you can’t expect them to run well fueled with pizza and ice cream (all the time). The better you eat, the better you’ll operate.
- Go hang out with your crew
When I get really stressed, I tend to revert inwards. It’s important to close the computer (or books or whatever is demanding your attention) and surround yourself with the people that make you feel good. Go do what your love, with who you love, and get your mind off of it for the time being.
This leads me to my next point.
- Think on it, talk it out, and move on
This one takes a lot of practice, and patience with yourself, but it’s hugely beneficial once you’ve mastered it – and it is so worth mastering, believe me. When something is stressing us out or weighing us down, it’s hard not to constantly be thinking about it – which is draining.
So that I don’t drive myself crazy, I allocate time to think about whatever is stressing me out –for instance, how I might make a decision. When I’m thinking something over, sometimes it helps to write things out – like making a pros and cons list. Other times it’s helpful to talk things out with someone close to you. It can really help to work through something when you see it all on paper or when you hear it out loud.
Then, when you’ve thought it out or talked it out, move on (again, for the time being). It’s just too exhausting to let your stressors seep into other aspects of your life so do yourself a favour and give them a time and a place and then leave them there.
- Don’t procrastinate
Just don’t. You’ll end up stressing even more working to get whatever done in less time and/or doing a hack job.
Also, tasks are usually more daunting before you’ve started them, thinking about everything you have to do – so don’t drag this phase out. Once you get going, you’ll realize how capable you are and how manageable the task is.
- Put your headphones on
Music makes the world go round.
Don’t laugh – yes, laugh!
My new job caused me a lot of stress when I first started and I would come home huffing and puffing. Mike would have me laughing my head off in no time – completely distracted and forgetting all about whatever, realistically small, issue was being blown up in my head.
It may feel like this big, huge deal at the time but in the grand scheme of things, it’s probably not the end of the world – so laugh it off.
- Get a puppy!
No, I’m not kidding!
Dogs (and fine, maybe cats too) are known to relieve symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. But if you don’t want to take my word for it, take it from all of the programs out there bringing puppies to offices, schools and nursing homes.
Taking care of something else can really help us to take care of ourselves – a pup helps you to focus on something other than yourself and whatever earth-shattering issue is at hand.
And no, no puppy yet, but I’m working on Mike. Stay tuned.