A Quick Solution for Stress

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I want to share a simple technique with you that has been titled “The Super Stress Buster”.  Our lives are filled with stress and we are often told we need to “manage” stress for health reasons.  What does that even mean????  For the most part, it’s impossible to eliminate our stress.  It’s just there – daily tasks to be done, bills to be paid, kids needing our attention, deadlines at work, sickness and injuries, the list goes on.  We need simple solutions that are quick and easy.  Solutions that don’t add to our stress – haha!

The American Institute of Stress says there is one “Super Stress Buster” that is so easy even kids can do it – BREATHING!  Although breathing is an autonomous function, we need to be taught to do it properly to experience it’s relaxing effects.  Most often we take shallow breaths that keep us feeling uptight. 

Recently research has shown that in our tech-crazy world we actually HOLD our breath.  Surprisingly there is something called “screen apnea”.  We actually stop breathing while working on our computers or smart phones!  Simple activities such as texting and emailing will cause this to happen and it leads to added tension and stress.  Learning simple techniques to help us relax and rest is key.

Our breath is the gateway to activating our parasympathetic nervous system.  This is the part of our nervous system that is responsible for calming and healing effects.  Shallow chest breathing (as opposed to deep belly breathing) activates our sympathetic nervous system.  This initiates our “fight or flight” response and creates higher heart rates, excess cortisol and more tension in our bodies.  Slow breathing does the opposite and studies have shown that it reduces stress, blood pressure and heart rates.   Deep breathing gets more nourishing oxygen into our bodies.  Blood that is rich in oxygen will help you feel better, and give you more energy. 

Here are 2 techniques to master your breathing, reconnecting your body and mind and stopping the stress response.

Three-Part Breath:

  1. Start lying down or in an easy seated position.  Make sure your spine is straight and your abdomen is not restricted.
  2. Close your eyes. Relax your face and body, and breathe naturally through your nose.
  3. Place one hand on your lower abdomen and place your other hand on your chest
  4. Begin to focus your awareness on your breath as it moves in and out of your body through your nose.
  5. Inhale through your nose and feel your belly lift followed by the expansion of your ribs.  Your breath fills right up till you feel it up to the back of your throat.
  6. Exhale completely feeling your chest contracts and your belly lower.
  7. Continue at your own pace and gradually let the 3 parts of the breath flow.  Inhale and your belly lifts, your ribs expand and your chest rises.  Exhale and your chest drops, your ribs contract and your belly softens.
  8. Using full inhalations and exhalations and repeat for as long as you feel comfortable

Teddy Bear Breathing (Three-Part Breath for kids)

Teaching your kids how to calm themselves down by using their breath is a valuable tool.

  1. Have your child lay on their back and place one hand on their chest and place their favourite teddy bear on their belly button.
  2. Have them close their eyes and relax your whole body. Breath in slowly through their nose. The teddy bear should slowly rise, but their chest should not.
  3. When they have taken a full deep breath, hold it, count to three then slowly breathe out. Repeat a few times, until they feel relaxed

Enjoy the relaxation of deep breathing.  Even a two minute breathing break  will make you feel better.  Just try it!

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5 Simple Ways To Add Fitness Into Your Busy Schedule

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Fitness does not need to consist of an hour workout at the gym.  There are creative ways to add in extra quality fat-burning movements into our days.  Here are a few ideas to make sure you “find” time to exercise.

# 1 Schedule a recurring appointment with yourself

You need to protect yourself from yourself.  Scheduling time in your calendar to workout is imperative.  There will be so many distractions that will keep you busy and keep you from your workouts.  Make yourself a priority and book your workout times in advance.

The other reason you need a recurring appointment with yourself is to avoid decision fatigue.  Yes, it’s a thing.  Think of your willpower as a muscle.  The more you work it (make decisions), the weaker it gets.  After a long day at work, you feel drained and your brain is tired of making decisions.  You may want to go to the gym but your brain can’t make anymore decisions and the default is to veg on the couch.  Side note: This also explains why you are eating chips on the couch when your goal is to lose weight 😦  Our decision-making quality deteriorates the more decisions we make throughout the day.

An appointment also makes you accountable.  At NC Fitness, we schedule your weekly workouts in advance.  This way, you are relieved from making a decision (you made it at the beginning) and you are accountable to your coach (ME!) and your fitness family.

#2 Exercise in your spare moments. 

Extra movements matter.  All your activities accumulate and add to your metabolic fire – the calories your burn.  Here are a few ideas of adding activity into your spare moments:

  • watching your favourite tv show, do jumping jacks, crunches etc
  • talking on the phone, walk the stairs, do squats or lunges
  • doing laundry, pound out a couple bicep curls with that heavy laundry basket
  • standing at the sink doing dishes – do calf raises or plies
  • waiting for a pot to boil or your nails to dry – do some push ups from the counter, or chair toe taps (or toilet toe taps – haha)
  • blow-drying your hair – do knee lifts or rear leg lifts

The possibilities are endless, just use your imagination!

#3 Go for a 10-minute power walk

Take a “walking break”.  Studies have proven that walking regularly will increase your lifespan.  It also improves your metabolism, memory and immune system.  Walking increases your energy and enhances your creative juices.  Is there a problem you are trying to solve? Go for a walk and you’ll be surprised at the ideas that will come to you.  Walking has so many amazing benefits and it’s so easy. 

Want to burn more calories while you walk?  Make your 10 minute walking break a HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout.  Take 20 seconds out of every minute and walk as fast as you possibly can.  This will definitely fire up your metabolism.

If you’re not sure when to squeeze in a walk, think about what you do every week.  Do you wait for your kids at a music lesson or sport activity?  Step out for 10 minutes and power out an invigorating walk.  Can you park your car 5-10 minutes away from your work?  That’ll make you walk 10-20 minutes everyday!  An awesome and easy way to add in some exercise!  Can you walk your kids to school everyday instead of driving?  Take some time to examine your calendar.  I challenge you to schedule in a 10 minute walk every day.

#4 Don’t use modern conveniences

As I mentioned in point #2, every movement matters and adds up to your metabolic burn.  Think of ways you can avoid using our modern conveniences.  For instance, take the stairs instead of the elevator (you’ve heard that one a million times). 

Here’s something I like to do.  If I am popping into the grocery store to pick up a couple of things (let’s face it, a couple of things ALWAYS ends up being more) I never use a cart.  I always use a basket.  Those baskets can get mighty heavy when you add things like fruit, veggies, almond milk, eggs – hello burning biceps!!!

The other thing I do is close my own trunk.  You know they have a button for this now on some vehicles??!!  Use your muscles for crying out load!!  Grab hold of that door and close it like you mean it.  Your latissimus dorsi will thank you!

#5 Join a fitness challenge with a friend

You gotta love a good fitness challenge, especially if you do it with a friend.  Having a partner who will keep you accountable is probably one of the top ways to stay on track and be consistent. 

I have just created a new fitness challenge that you can do anywhere, anytime.  You can do it all at once or break it down into smaller chunks.  You don’t need equipment and you don’t need to wear your workout gear.  You just need to move and that’s why it’s called the Move It More Challenge. 

Click Here For The Move It More Challenge