30 Days to healthy living: Day 7

We made it a week!! Yay!!
I don’t think I have ever blogged this many days in a row so I am doing a happy dance here! 😀
Today lets talk about rest and stress. Are YOU stressed out? I sure am and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a significant amount of stress in their life. It always seems like life is going 10,000 miles an hour and we just. can’t. slow. down. UUUUUUGGGHHHH!!!
So since it is Sunday and the weekly day of rest that my fellow Christians and I are supposed to observe, I thought it an opportune time to take a breather and talk about it. Do you ever stop and smell the roses? In other words, do you ever take a moment to observe the world around you? Do you notice the looks on other people’s faces at the grocery store? Or the scenery on your ride to work every day? Do you work Monday through Friday and long for the weekend only to fill it up with kid activities and grocery shopping and laundry and and and… ??? Me TOO!
We need to stop. And we need to stop this now. Today. Can we please just take a break?
You see, stress is not all bad. Getting married is stressful but it’s also joyful and a celebration of life. So is having a baby. Or going on a longed for trip. Or landing a new “perfect” job. Or retiring. Or everyday things like exercising. All good things but all stressful nonetheless. We are willing to do the work for these types of stressors because we can see the reward in them. “Bad” stress is the kind that doesn’t seem to get us anywhere. Like when we schedule overselves to have our kids at soccer practice at the same time you are supposed to be in a school board meeting while also baking cookies for your church bakesale. Or we sign our kids up for an activity that starts at 5 pm but that’s when we are getting out of work and now we have to figure out how to get them there while feeding them a nutritious dinner. (My apologies to the single people out there-my examples revolve around having kids because honestly I was never stressed out before I had them…) Where are these crazy schedules getting us? The answer is nowhere good.
Over scheduling leads to meals on the run which leads to eating unhealthy fast foods and this in turn contributes to weight gain and high blood pressure and diabetes. Bad, bad, bad.
Another type of “bad” stress? Getting yourself worked up over things you can’t control. This is rampant on social media. I feel it myself. I read posts and start getting upset and have to remind myself to step away from this kind of idiocy because ultimately it has no valid bearing on my life. Read the comments on those posts that get your gills up and you will quickly see that not everyone has learned the skill to walk away…but don’t read too much, you may lose faith in humanity.
What do we do?
1. Figure out your priorities. Make a list of everything you do. I made a stack of index cards and wrote one thing on each card that I currently have on my plate. I ended up with a HUGE pile. Pick out the top 5 things that you want to include in your life each week but don’t include things you need to do to live like eating or going to the bathroom.
2. Schedule your top 5. We often get so busy with our daily stuff and then forget to include the things that we WANT to include in our lives. Put it on the calendar.
3. Consider what you can live without. What things do you do that are of little benefit? What things do you do because you’re afraid someone else will be disappointed in you if you stop doing it? What things do you do that you do because you always have but don’t really want to? Do you do anything out of guilt? I hereby give you permission to stop doing these things.
4. Choose a day of rest. A WHOLE DAY of the week to unplug and not have anything scheduled. I try to do this on Sundays. I go to church every Sunday. It’s one of my priorities. But that’s it. I keep the afternoon open. I also have a hard rule that there are absolutely no activities to be scheduled during the time that we are supposed to be at church. This kind of goes under priorities but if I allowed things to get in the way of going to church I would also likely let things get in the way of having a day of rest too. We NEED down time.
5. Learn to say no. Say it with me now, NO! No. It’s the most beautiful word. You don’t even need to give an excuse. “Do you want to join our women’s group?” No. Thank you. “Can you bake 10,000 cookies for the bake sale?” No. Thank you.  And don’t feel guilty about it!! Baking cookies gives me hives just thinking about it so this is a no brainer for me but if you are a master baker but baking 10,000 cookies was not on your radar to do and you don’t want to that day, then DON’T. No one needs 10,000 cookies anyway. Think of how many vials of insulin saved!!!
6. Pray. Prayer has been shown to reduce stress and it helps us to be mindful. Take 5 minutes everyday to quiet yourself (moms-you can lock yourself in the bathroom to pray. God doesn’t mind.) and pray. Pray about what you need. Pray about what you want. Pray a prayer of gratitude for what you have. Pray a prayer for your children banging on the door. Pray for healing of your friends cancer. Pray for whatever comes to mind. Prayer is a form of meditation in a way (I can’t meditate to save my life but I can pray!).  Its good for you. Just pray.
7. Breathe. Feel uptight? Stress causes us to chest breathe. We need to belly breathe to release it. Take a deep breath in through your nose using your diaphragm . You want your belly to expand, not your chest. You are pulling air down deep into your lungs. Hold it there for a couple of seconds, then slowly let it out. Do this a couple of times while focusing on your breath. This type of breathing helps stop the stress response in its tracks. Great while driving on Sundays and holidays especially. Or the first day that it snows when everyone forgets how to drive. Or at the grocery store the day before a holiday. Or when your kids are driving you nuts and you think you will die. I know this because a friend told me. Ok, you got me. I am that friend…
8. Eat well. Crazy eating patterns like eating in the car or in front of the TV or at your desk is terrible for you. Eat good food, sitting down, at a table and preferably with people you like. Stress interferes with digestion too so don’t eat with people you don’t like. Except your children. You have to (at least try or pretend) to eat with your children. Family meal time is a wonderful thing, however, sometimes it’s ok to send them away so you can eat in peace with your spouse. 😉 Really, though if your stomach is in a knot, digestion isn’t happening. I end up with a stomachache for hours and feel bloated. Take a few breaths. Walk away for a bit and then come back to eat if you need to. Your meal should be a mini-feast and a time to enjoy. Take pleasure in your meals! (yes, even if it’s a protein shake!)
9. Exercise! Exercise is excellent stress relief!! This should be on your calendar as a priority. 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise at a minimum. Need extra stress relief, try kick boxing or martial arts. Works for me!
10. Sleep! 7-8 hours minimum for adults. Turn off all devices at least 1 hour before bed, preferably 2. Dim the lights. No phones at the bedside. No TV in the room. You will be more resilient with adequate sleep. Without it you will be more likely to react than to respond through out the day. This is another priority item. What time do you need to get up in order to be ready to leave on time? count backwards 8 hours. This is when you should be turning off the light to go to sleep. An hour before that is when you should start your bedtime routine and hopping into bed to read or do other things you are supposed to reserve your bedroom for…
Pick one of these and start incorporating it into your life this week. Add one more thing per week. Its not an overnight process. Your bad habits and stressors have built up over time. It will take time to fix it. 10 things in 10-12 weeks. You can do this!
Tomorrow we will talk about hydration. Have a wonderful day!

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