By Jacqueline Sidman
Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, February/March 2005.
We all feel stress from time to time, and many of our lifestyle habits don’t support us in our journey along a healthier path. Here are 10 lifestyle changes that will help you become more relaxed and increase your overall feeling of well-being.
1. Have a power breakfast. Eat oatmeal or other hot cereals or wheat toast with apple butter or low-sugar jam. Replace your coffee with herbal tea. Some people skip breakfast, saying they are not hungry or they don’t have time. Eat anyway. Bodies are like engines — they need fuel. This “new” breakfast will keep you alert and relaxed all morning.
2. Avoid fruit lunches. Fruit quickly raises and then drops your blood sugar. Eat some protein and vegetables instead, like last night’s leftover grilled chicken and mixed vegetables, or try a salad with tuna.
3. Take three deep breaths before you eat to increase your body’s supply of oxygen, relax, and help you digest your food. You’ll eat slower and give your body a chance to know it is full. This will benefit your waistline and your stress level.
4. Cut back on coffee, tea, and cola drinks. The caffeine in these beverages makes you jittery and causes dehydration by taking more liquid from your system than they put in. Try herbal teas instead, and drink plenty of water to cleanse and hydrate your system.
5. Watch for the mid-afternoon “slump” — a result of low blood sugar from eating a lunch too high in sugar. To feel really refreshed, pass up the candy bar and cola and balance fruit with healthy protein and vegetables and a cup of herbal tea.
6. Prioritize your tasks. The One-Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard suggests you separate your tasks into three categories. Things on the “A” list are “must-do.” Things left for the “B” list are important, but can wait, and items left for the “C” list can probably be eliminated altogether. Applaud yourself when you are able to cross items off.
7. Designate the end of work time and the beginning of personal time by performing a ritual, such as locking your desk drawer and turning off your office light. If we don’t separate the dimensions of our lives, we become resentful and stressed because we feel like we never leave work.
8. Do something relaxing every day. We all need some “me time.” Listen to your favorite music on the commute home from work, engage in your favorite hobby at least a half hour a day, take an evening walk, or just soak in the tub.
9. Exercise daily so it becomes a healthy habit. Even walking for 20 to 30 minutes per day creates a calm mind and a healthy body. Choose a form of exercise you enjoy — dancing, tennis, aerobics, or bike riding. Remember, exercise gives your mind a vacation.
10. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Getting enough rest is essential. Most people need between six to eight hours of sleep to counteract stress and rejuvenate the mind and body.