Simple Strategies for Stress Management

slow down, relax, take it easy, keep calm and other motivational

As most university students would agree, school is stressful.  In fact over the past three years, I sometimes felt the stress to be getting overwhelming and contributing to anxiety.  On some days, I would find it hard to get up and face the day.  Thankfully, I made the decision to start eating more healthfully and that began a transformation for myself.  Many people fail to realize the strong connection between our minds and bodies and how treating one of them improperly can lead to the other being affected.  Here are some simple things that you can do to overcome stress and lead a healthier lifestyle.

Drink more water

Drinking more water can have profound effects on our health.  When you consider the fact that our bodies are made up of 70% water, it makes sense that we need water for in order for our bodies to work efficiently.  It flushes out toxins, hydrates us and contributes to clearer skin.  It also improves energy and reduces fatigue.  Fatigue can lead to stress as if we are always tired and unable to tackle assignments, this can cause a lot of anxiety.  Water can also boost our immune system.

https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-4287/10-Reasons-Why-You-Should-Drink-More-Water.html

Exercise Daily

 

Not only is physical exercise great for keeping our bodies in shape and looking great in a bathing suit, it also helps clear our mind and tackle stress.  Exercise releases endorphins which are powerful chemicals that give us a natural high feeling.  Exercise can also improve self-esteem and relieve tension.  It can also provide a distraction to help clear your mind.

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/the-mental-health-benefits-of-exercise.htm

Be Mindful

Mindfulness is concerned with the awareness that occurs when we pay attention to the current moment.  When we can become more aware of our bodies and the feelings we are having from moment to moment, we can reshape our brains for greater emotional balance.

http://www.mindfulnesseveryday.org/?gclid=CMK_2K3gpNQCFUQcaQodk6kABg

Here are a few short videos that help explain mindfulness:

Be Kind

Kindness, besides making others happy, has positive effects on our health.  It can help us feel better, give us heathier hearts and battle aging.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-r-hamilton-phd/kindness-benefits_b_869537.html

Kindness can also be contagious and when we “pay it forward”, we encourage others to do the same.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwAYpLVyeFU

Be Positive

Unfortunately, I find that most people in life look for the negative in others and tend to be very critical.  Why?  Is this how we make ourselves feel better about ourselves?  Negativity only creates more negativity.  Scientific research has found that the synapses in our brain can be wired to fire in similar patterns.  Therefore, thinking negative thoughts creates more negative thoughts.  Essentially, we are training ourselves to be consistently negative.  These negative thoughts also weaken our immune systems and cause us to become sick.  We can literally make ourselves sick from being a negative person.

https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/complaining-rewires-your-brain-for-negativity-science-says.html

So why not try being more positive.  Does it have the opposite effect?  It doesn’t exactly work the same but thinking positively does open our minds and cause us to see more possibilities and opportunities in life.  This is turn helps us deal with stressful situations in our lives.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-clear/positive-thinking_b_3512202.html

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/positive-thinking/art-20043950

Stress-psychology

The Truth about Fats and Sugars

Over the past couple of decades a shift has occurred in diet practices from no fat to no carbohydrates and lately it has turned to avoiding refined sugars.  Are we headed in the right direction or is this just another phase?

In the 80s, everyone was worried about fat.  The knowledge that fat contained nine calories per gram instead of four like proteins and carbohydrates led people to believe it would make us all obese.  People were told that fat would clog their arteries and cause heart disease.  In an effort to avoid fat, they began to replace it with nutrient empty foods instead of nutrient dense and fulfilling foods that contain fat.  Fat satisfies our hunger whereas sugar just makes us hungrier.  If you think about it, many foods that contain fat are heathy foods with lots of vitamins and minerals; foods like avocado, shrimp, nuts, seeds, olive oil, salmon and tofu just to name a few.  However, they were avoiding these and eating foods with hidden sugars such as granola and other cereals and yogurt.  Most foods that are advertised as being low in fat are generally high in sugar.  During this no fat fad in the 80s, the incidence of type two diabetes rose.  Research on the ways our body metabolizes fat and sugar led to the no carb phase.  It was found that natural fat whether it be saturated or unsaturated is actually necessary for proper body function and health.  Even saturated fat is good fat.  It is found to raise good cholesterol in our bodies and had immune boosting effects.  It can prevent heart disease.  So what was it that was leading to more health risks in North America?  Sugar!

Resources:
http://www.thankyourbody.com/why-your-body-needs-fat/

http://www.thankyourbody.com/big-fat-lie/

http://www.self.com/story/9-high-fat-foods-actually-good-for-you

The documentary “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” (full movie is on Netflix) opened my eyes to the hidden sugars in foods and the real health problems that can occur simply from the intake of refined sugar.  Many people are drinking their sugar in the form of sodas and fruit juices.  Fructose is the sugar that is the real danger.  It is almost immediately processed into fat by your liver leaving you with extra fat and no sensation of satisfaction from your intake.  No energy is created and we are left hungry.  Many low fat diet foods are full of fructose.  Fructose fools your metabolism by turning off our body’s appetite control system because it does not stimulate insulin properly which results in you eating more than you should.

Now to how it can create very serious health problems.  Fructose elevates uric acid.  This causes your smooth muscles to contract and raises blood pressure.  It can also cause kidney damage and chronic inflammation.  This can all lead to heart attack and stroke.  Research has also linked chronic inflammation with cancer.  It also causes elevated blood sugar and a risk for type two diabetes as well as fatty liver disease.

Resource: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/04/20/sugar-dangers.aspx

estimated_impact_by_2023

Source: http://www.cutthewaist.com/impact.html

young-epidemic-the-rise-of-type-2-diabetes-in-children

Source: https://www.columnfivemedia.com/work-items/infographic-the-young-epidemic-the-rise-of-type-2-diabetes-in-children

I have definitely found myself feeling much healthier since I gave up refined sugars.  I find it easier to focus, I have more energy and I don’t crave sugar or sweets in any way.  As a general rule, if you stick to natural foods and avoid processed foods, you will be doing your health a favour.

Get Fit From Home

How many of us have made a New Year’s Resolution to get fit and join a gym only to quit months later?  If you said yes, you are definitely not alone.  Statistics show us then drop off rates after six months of a gym membership are more than forty percent.  In addition to that, almost thirty percent will attend the gym infrequently.  This may have something to do with our tendency to go to the gym only early in the week with only five to seven percent of members going to the gym on weekends.  Without a consistent routine, it is difficult to remain committed to a workout routine.

gym_membership           weekly_membership_habits

There are so many reasons people may not be able to go to the gym regularly. A lot of people are so busy trying to manage school, work and/or kids that they don’t have time to make it there consistently. For some, social anxiety holds them back. For others, a membership is something they either can’t afford or don’t want to invest in at the moment. But the good thing is, we don’t actually need access to a gym to maintain our health or fitness.

I’ve been working out from home for the past year now and I find it much more convenient and practical to fit it into my every day life. Although I’ve moved into creating my own workout plans,  I wanted to share my favourite workout apps because they’re what helped me get into the routine of working out regularly.

sworkit                                 sworkit_2

The Sworkit apps are my favourite because they’re so simple, straightforward and useful. All the exercises can be done without a gym or equipment. When you first open the main Sworkit app, you choose which area you’d like to focus on (Strength, Cardio, Yoga or Stretching). Then you choose your workout.

You then select how long you want your workout to be, and get started. The app gives you exercises to target your chosen areas to follow along with. Each exercise is demonstrated by video and there is a countdown to let you know how long you should be doing them.

sworkit_3                       sworkit_4

However, what I love most about Sworkit is the fact that they also have specific apps for specific areas. They have Abs & Core Sworkit, Upper Body Sworkit, Lower Body Sworkit, Butt Sworkit, Stretching Sworkit and Cardio Sworkit apps. You can download whatever app works best for what you want to work on. There’s even Sworkit for kids!

If you’re interested in working out at home or on your own without a gym, I would definitely recommend downloading these apps. They’re free, easy to use and very convenient. Even if you have the time and desire to get up and go to the gym, it can be hard to know where to start or what to do when you’re there. I cancelled my gym membership because I was going to the gym and using this app every time. The Sworkit apps can be used anywhere and definitely make working out on your own time and schedule much easier.

 

Sugar is the Devil

One year ago I accepted a challenge from a friend to go for a month without sugar.  I was in my second year of university and I had developed some very bad habits.  I had always been told fat was what would make you unhealthy and you should avoid it at all costs.  Little did I know at the time it was the sugar that was causing all sorts of problems for me.  I accepted my friends offer thinking I would do it for a month, it would be easy, and then I would go back to my old ways.

sugar-devil                    78f61a85be987b09b45c71705f298ef1

I thought the No sugar Challenge was simply mental and was only going to require self control, but I was very wrong. The first week of completely cutting these foods out, my body went into withdrawal. Since I used to eat these things so much, depriving my body of them completely was a major change. It caused me to get headaches, feel nauseous and weak. I could’ve stopped at that point because it was making me feel terrible, but I decided to see if things would change. I soon realized that I needed to replace the processed sugars I was cutting out with natural sugars in order to have energy to get through the days. Constantly eating fruits and vegetables as snacks helped a lot. By the second week I felt a lot better and by the third week I was waking up positive, full of energy. I can honestly say the challenge made me feel healthier, more alert and positive. For the most part, it got easier to live without those foods as time progressed. The best thing about this challenge for me was forming new habits. Once I did one month, I felt like I could do another and now I’ve permanently changed some old bad habits. It’s been 12 months and I still don’t drink soda or keep junk food in my room and I can’t remember the last time I ate McDonalds.

If I could get people to understand one thing about their diet, it’s how bad sugar can be for you. So this mini-documentary is all about sugar. I enjoyed it because it felt like more of an experiment-like TV episode. You get to see what bad sugar habits each person has and physically see how much they intake a day. Then they significantly reduce the amount of sugars they eat and see the results. I was slipping back into my old ways, but I think watching this scared me away from sugar again.