While the holidays are coming into the home stretch, it’s still a great time to think about how we can reduce our stress level throughout the year. Our culture is one that thrives on a “more is more” philosophy – we wear our busyness and our consumption like a badge, always eager to add one more activity or responsibility to our already-overloaded plate. Here are a few ways to lessen that load, lower your cortisol levels and lose that spare tire for once and for all.
- “Yes” is a four-letter word. Well, not really, but it might as well be. If you tend to say yes to everything that’s asked of you, chances are you’re exhausted, burned out and less-than-pleasant for the people who mean the most to you. You’ve also likely been targeted by those among us who like to dump their own responsibilities on people they know are too “nice” to say no. So say it with me: NO. If you can’t bring yourself to immediately say no to requests that overwhelm you, learn to ask for time to check your schedule. Then think about it – do you REALLY want to do this? What will you have to sacrifice to get it done? Then make your decision accordingly. Saying “No” to a request or invitation every once in a while will give you something I bet you haven’t had in years: a little bit of free time.
- Walk it off. When life gets so out of control that your head is spinning, head outside or to the gym to work it out. Even a short walk around the block will defuse your stress and provide a fresh point of view from which to move forward.
- Take time to breathe. As simple as it sounds, breath is life. There’s a reason why yoga is so popular – it forces people to slow down and truly breathe, which then helps them reconnect with their inner balance. When your stress level is zooming upwards, force yourself to take deep breaths and get centered again. You’ll calm your heart rate and get body- and brain-boosting oxygen flowing.
- Prioritize, and then cut yourself a break. Be nice to yourself! You’re the only self you’ve got. If your to-do list is too long, look at it and ask yourself honestly what has to be done RIGHT NOW. Then accomplish those things, and leave the rest to another day.
- Cut the butts. Obviously cigarettes are a habit you should’ve kicked long ago. But if you haven’t, consider that in addition to its already considerable negative effect on your health, nicotine also acts as a stimulant and can bring on or exacerbate stress symptoms.
- Make a new list. Many of us keep lengthy to-do lists to keep us on track. Add a new twist to your list: at the end of each day, list your accomplishments. Get your workout in? Check. Bills paid? Check. Provided healthy meals, met deadlines, didn’t forget anyone’s soccer practice or homework? Check, check and check. Seeing how much you got done over the course of the day will boost your self-esteem and make you feel readier to tackle tomorrow’s tasks.
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