When you think of achieving optimal health and maybe even a slimmer waist, usually the two things that pop into the mind are proper nutrition and fitness.
Yet there’s one more piece of the healthy puzzle that is often overlooked, but so needed in today’s fast paced world.
It’s stress management.
Stress increases your blood sugar, spikes blood pressure and even packs on the pounds.
The scary part is, with age, women’s stress levels (the hormone cortisol) increases more than in men.
So, as women, we need to be hyper aware of incorporating a relaxation practice in order to live our best health and to reach a healthy weight.
This is something that lately I have really been revisiting.
Over the past few months life was out of hand. I was pushing to launch the brand new fitness program Over Fifty Fit and Fabulous, we were still working on renovations in the house. Deadlines kept piling up.
I was stressed and my body wasn’t happy. I was starting to gain weight even though my eating hadn’t changed, I was waking up in the middle of the night with thoughts racing through my head, and my morning run routine left me feeling exhausted, achy and depleted.
Enough was enough!
The thing is, life still goes on, and launches and renovations will continue, so instead of allowing myself to continue to feel stressed and unhappy, I pulled out my time tested strategies to manage stress and started using them right away.
Within days I already started to feel more relaxed, I started to enjoy life again (something I know my husband was grateful for) and my pants have now stopped cutting off my circulation.
Learning how to incorporate relaxation and rest into my health practice is still a challenge, and I have to make a conscious effort to keep these practices a part of my daily life, but it’s something I will continue to work on, because it brings so much joy, and so much fun into a life that I often take way too seriously.
and because these strategies work so well for me, I wanted to share them with you.
Here are my favourite time tested strategies to feel relaxed, to enjoy life and yes, you may even slim down:
1. Begin a Deep Belly Breathing Practice:
If you’re new to belly breathing, or you’re not sure how to start, there are great FREE apps that walk you through a relaxing deep belly breathing practice. Two apps I’ve used in the past are:
- Belly Bio Interactive Feedback (an app for the iphone)
- Breathe2Relax (an app for both iphones and androids)
(For a list of more deep belly breathing apps download the Slim Stress Belly Plan here).
You don’t always need to use an app to get a relaxing, deep belly breathing session in.
I belly breathe at night, in bed and I choose not to have electronics (my phone) in the bedroom.
Instead I focus on my breathing until I go to sleep.
If this sounds more like something you’d like to do, then here are the steps to create a deep sense of relaxation with your breathe:
- Place your hands on your belly
- Inhale through your nose deeply for 3 counts. Feel as your belly rises underneath your hands
- Exhale for 3 counts through your nose. Feel as your belly gently falls
- Do this for 10 minutes
2. Get Out in Nature
Did you know that walking in a forest actually creates physiological changes in your body. Your cortisol levels drop and your relaxation system (the parasympathetic system) responds and relaxes the body.
This is something I feel almost instantly when I go for a walk in the woods.
I begin to yawn, my body releases tension and I feel at peace.
I am so lucky to live in a place that has quick access to nature in every direction of me, but if you live in an area far away from the forest, there are still wonderful benefits by simply being outside.
Find a park, or a neighbourhood that’s quiet and peaceful. A place you can sit and look up at the sky.
Incorporate your deep belly breathing into this practice. Take deep breaths and enjoy the feeling of being free, in open space.
3. Bring the Joy Back
With so many to-do’s on the list, I sometimes feel like I’ve lost the reason behind why I’m doing whatever it is that I’m doing. Instead of coming from a place of joy, the activity becomes a chore.
So, I’ve got to bring the joy back.
Let me give you an example: I adore what I do for a living. I get to transform the health and the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of women over fifty, internationally, through fitness and weight loss strategies.
That’s a pretty amazing job. I’m so lucky I’ve found this passion.
But it’s this passion that pushes me into long hours of work, little play and once again taking my life, and my purpose to serve way too seriously.
I need to chill out and bring the joy back!
When I’m doing something that feels like a chore or a stressor, I remember why I’m doing what I’m doing.
I remember how much fun it is to create a new fitness program. I remember how excited I get when someone tells me they’ve lost a few pounds. I feel so much joy when someone tells me their medication has been reduced or they’re excited to become the best energized grandma ever!
We do each and every activity on the to do list for a great, more joyful purpose and reconnecting with that joy, makes life much more relaxing, more joyful and fun.
Here are a few tips to bring the joy back into activities that stress you out:
- Sick of driving the kids/grandkids too and from their activities? The car is a great place to connect. Spark a fun conversation, learn about someone’s day and use this moment to reconnect with your loved ones.
- Hate paying bills? Use this as a moment of gratitude. We live in a world where food is in abundance, heat, electricity and telephones are luxuries we take for granted.
- Working too much?Remember why you chose your career. What do you love about it? We also live in a world where you have a choice you to find something else.
These are the 3 time tested strategies I use to relax, rejoice and yes, it also helps you shed the stress related pounds.
and while it’s not always easy to add in a relaxation practice, I always feel so much better when I do. I hope you feel the same way too.
Is stress increasing your waistline? Download your FREE Stress Belly Plan