By now I’m sure you realize that all of the Five Pillars of the Health Matters System are interconnected. I could explain how each pillar is my favorite. How to Unwind from Stress is definitely one of my favorite pillars. I’m kidding – I love them all. They are parts to a whole. This whole is your life that is balanced, peaceful, fun, energetic, and in which you nourish your body and soul with radiantly wholesome food plus relaxing activities. That was a long sentence. And remember that getting yourself in top performance health-and-energy-wise similarly has a number of moving parts. It’s more like a story than a simple phrase.
If you have any struggle whatsoever with misusing food, than this pillar will be like a pair of handrails for you. Stress around food and your body is a circular set of events. If you turn to food when you are stressed, the way you feel afterward will continue the cycle. If you have the habit to take in large amounts of food that leave you feeling depleted, bloated, in a crummy mood, and unable to focus, you have just turned on the stress response in your body as clearly as if you flicked a switch.
My team and I identified the desire to get out from too much stress as among the number one challenges among people who just want to feel better and have life be easier. We conducted a survey to help us determine what is really bugging seekers of health and relief. The ways excess stress manifest are too numerous to give you an exhaustive list. (We cover this in the Unwind from Stress online course.) Here is some info from the course that can help you understand your own body.
What do you recognize as any symptoms or issues with which you have been dealing?
Although there are a lot of moving parts to stepping out from under the burden of too much stress, surely you can get relief by taking some steps that I will outline for you. And then you can get more relief by adopting some of these practices into your daily routine, consistently and over time.
Once again, you will see clearly how the pillars are integrated. In fact, each pillar shines even brighter when looked at in relationship to the other four. Even as my team and I assembled this for you, the integration, the interrelatedness presented itself to us over and over. There is a message in this for all of us.
Our bodies are not composed of separated islands.
We are whole beings.
All of our parts are connected and interrelated.
It is this, your discovery of your own inner connectedness, which leads you to treat yourself well. Conversely, if you do feel stressed, you can regard this as a sign of inner disconnectedness.
Here is an illustrative example of feeling connected:
That entire ritual, starting the night before and stretching into the next day, helps you feel great, and definitely unwound from stress. This is an extension of feeling connected plus knowing how to give your body what your body needs to thrive.
A good time to implement a routine like this would be tomorrow morning.
In the course, one of the first things I taught was that wanting less stress was an okay goal. But it’s not as significant as choosing to add more peace, harmony, and calmness in your life. Wanting less stress is like wanting less debt. Peace, harmony, and calmness are like financial freedom. In the former, stress is not in the equation. In the latter, neither is debt.
The antithesis of that little ritual I described above paints a different picture. Going to bed way past the time you are exhausted, skipping any self-care routines in the morning, skipping breakfast or trying to get by on sugary cereal and/or lots of coffee – and things of that nature – will perpetuate the stress cycle. You can lead yourself deeper into depletion, irritability, and inability to focus. Or, you can select a different route. Unwind from stress means that you habitually pick the more wholesome path in order to put your body in peak performance, physically, mentally, psychologically, and even spiritually if that is part of your self-reference.
Here are ten ways to help you unwind from stress.
The goal is for you to change your point of focus. Instead of searching for less stress, focus on enjoying a life that is balanced, peaceful, fun, energetic, and in which you nourish your body and soul in an ongoing way.
1. Quit or dial back non-nutritive (junk) food.
Food that is low quality often contains high amounts of processed sugar, unhealthy fats, artificial chemicals, and salt. Examples are food from a vending machine, from your corner mini-mart or 7-Eleven. Packaged, manufactured, in a box, refined, commercialized are often associated with non-nutritive food like this. This food does not contribute to your feeling calm, grounded and most importantly well-nourished. Sure, there is a buzz of pleasure and reward from the simple carbohydrates, but this will compound stress more than it will help you unwind from it.
2. Eat more whole foods like plants.
In the Unwind from Stress course, I spoke about a time when I was sitting at my desk, practically pulling my hair out because I could not unravel a technology puzzle. I announced to my husband that I had to get up, take the dogs around the block, and come home and eat vegetables. Foods like fruits, veggies, seeds, nuts, beans, and whole complete grains will help your brain function better, in particular in comparison to your body’s response to junk food. When you refer back to the first two pillars – Love Yourself First and Eat Nutritious Food – it all falls into place. Eat food that puts you in a good mood, without a crash afterward. This will help increase a sense of peace, harmony, and calm in your body.
Veggies are from the earth. This is why they help you feel more grounded.
3. Maintain some kind of self-care practice.
With countless options to choose from, there is something for everyone. Meditation and breathing are not only for monks in orange robes. Yoga stretches are not gimmicky or faddish. Relaxing your mind through sitting quietly in the morning has an impact on your whole body/mind/soul, and it is pure science. You can, on purpose, literally, impact favorably your mood, your outlook, your ability to concentrate, your brain, and the health of your entire body through a relaxation practice. By the way, the best time to stretch or engage in self-care practices is when you want to do it. In the morning when you first get up, mid-day, before or after the evening meal, or before you go to bed are all as good as each other. Consistency is the key, more than which time of day you engage in this practice.
4. Rely on movement to stay calm and in a good mood.
In Unwind from Stress, as I mentioned, I taught very quickly that creating calm, peace, and harmony is far better than trying to have less stress. Exercise is a sure-fire way to energize your body and put you in a very good head-space. There is a physiological impact, just like the breathing and meditation practices I mentioned above. If you want to clear your mind, feel more alive, and put yourself in a good mood, most forms of exercise will do just that. Refreshing movement can reverse the effect of stress hormones, and cause your brain to switch-over to feel-good neurotransmitters.
5. Get plenty of sleep.
When it comes to unwinding from stress, nothing beats a good night sleep. Your entire body relies on rest to remove debris from your nervous system, your internal organs, your blood, your muscles, and well, pretty much every cell in your body. Our bodies work during the day performing countless functions. Restorative sleep will be among your greatest allies if performing and feeling your best are important to you. Chronic exhaustion will compromise all of your body’s functions, exacerbate stress, and put you at risk for a variety of undesirable health challenges. Having a bed time ritual and getting ready for bed before you are completely exhausted are recommended. A cool room, darkness, and quiet help as well.
6. Be a master of your calendar.
This segment is for you if you perceive an insufficiency of time. If you hear yourself chanting the “not enough time refrain” then you understand how this can become a gnawing stressor in your life. We spent quite a bit of time on this issue in the course because it is both common as well as distressing for so many people. Practice saying no to people who place demands on you, especially if you feel that they are unreasonable and unfair. Among the many reasons for you to dictate your calendar and schedule versus your calendar and schedule dictating you is for you to get to taking care of yourself. If you notice that you are the last one to receive exercise, rest, nourishment, and support because you are either “too busy” or “too busy taking care of everyone else”, carve out time, make dates with yourself, and let others know that you aren’t available on their time frame. (This takes practice. Consider getting help!)
7. Speaking of support, who are you hanging with?
I assume that you have the goal or intention to relax and unwind. Isn’t that what we are talking about here? I figure you not only want less stress, but you also resonate with what I wrote about increasing peace and harmony in your life. Look around at the people with whom you live and work. If you are putting up with people who are demanding, critical, toxic, and negative, could you create some distance between you and them? Some people will suck the energy right out of you if you allow them. Some will bring you down because of their negativity, criticism, and complaining. If you can’t break away entirely, at least spend way less time with people like these. You deserve to be part of an uplifting group of friends, family, and perhaps co-workers. You might need time to make some adjustments, but you will find yourself feeling so much better, and realize how worthwhile it is to do this.
8. Fill your own tank.
Do things that make you happy, but only those that are wholesome and nurturing. Learn to distinguish between “It makes me feel good to eat an entire pizza” and “A spinach salad would really be good for me now.” Discover the difference between playing a video game because it is relaxing, compared with spending so many hours in front of the screen that you cut yourself off from meaningful relationships. Similarly, taking a walk by yourself because it is relaxing is different than disconnecting from family and friends who can support you in your life. Staying connected to you is something you can learn to do with practice. As I mentioned in the Eat Nutritious Food pillar, it is stressful to eat until you are stuffed. It is relaxing and promotes peace and harmony to complete a meal when you are comfortably satisfied. All of this in-touch-ness comes with practice. Fill your own tank also means that you practice getting your emotional needs met. Recognizing any signs of depletion or distress can help you turn the dial toward these activities that make you feel good, in a sustained, pro-health kind of way.
One of my clients had a friend who frequently wanted to come over to drink beer, watch TV, and basically waste an otherwise perfectly good evening. My client had the habit of saying okay, and then regretting the friend and resenting himself for not guarding his time and setting boundaries with this friend. He learned a simple technique. When his friend called, he said, “Sorry, I’m not available that evening.” This was very uncomfortable at first, but, you guessed it, he loved having a peaceful evening with his wife and daughter. Consider “upgrading” your friends if you know of people who enjoy a more wholesome life. People who love to exercise, eat nutritious food, take long walks, and read good books make good friends. Even if you can’t choose your relatives, you can at least spend less time with the ones who do nothing to enhance your life.
9. Become your own best support person.
Listen to what you tell yourself. Being your own worst critic can be a huge drag on so many parts of your life. Whispering unkind words to yourself is a habit, and one that’s worth adjusting. Practice speaking to yourself like you do to someone you love. Whisper words of encouragement and celebrate all of your accomplishments, even the little ones. Forget about perfectionism because it’s overrated. Like one of my friends told me recently, remember that you are one of those humans. If you did not do something up to your highest expectations, go out of your way to tell yourself something encouraging.
10. Laugh and play.
When you are having fun, when you feel the wonderful sense of your smile muscles being stretched, you are also unwinding from stress. Laughter helps you relax. It even supports your digestive system. More about that in the next pillar about your healthy gut.
Let’s assume that playing and having fun does not entail harming your body, such as overconsuming alcohol or food. If fun for you leaves you feeling depleted, gassy, bloated, or unable to feel fully conscious, know that this is not the kind of play I am suggesting. When you have fun in a wholesome way, your body will refill its reserves of immune support, it will balance your nervous system, and enjoy reduced inflammation. One of the core practices in the Health Matters system is for you to have an ample personalized list of your go-to self-loving and self-soothing activities. For me, this one relates to every pillar. If and when you feel exhausted, achy in your body, unable to concentrate, overwhelmed by unpleasant emotions, or just in a crummy mood, going to your favorite ways to relax and have fun will be life-saving.
Today I was working in my kitchen and learning about growing microgreens. I love growing sprouts, but I am new to microgreens. My husband was in his office singing, getting ready for the next karaoke night. We compared notes afterward, remarking how much we enjoy our hobbies. We also have two beautiful dogs. Taking care of them is a reliable way for me to fill my tank.
But what about you? What do you love to do, that helps you feel relaxed and happy, or even makes you laugh? Carlos Castaneda, author of the books about Don Juan, the Indian shaman spiritualist, says,
The trick is in what one emphasizes.
We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy.
The amount of work is the same.
I wish for you a lovely, calm, and harmonious life. There are no prizes for having a crazy busy life. But there are rewards for unwinding from stress, learning to let go, and to give peace a chance.
Resource: Give Peace a Chance podcast
Like I do at the end of all the pillars, I want to remind you about getting help. I have coaches in a variety of aspects of my life. When someone knows more than I do on a subject where I long to improve, and she or he can lead me to achieve my particular goals, I bring that coach on to my team. It makes sense to me that a coach will guide me to get the results I am looking for faster, smoother, and with less pain, suffering, and frustration.
If you resonate with this, and if you are willing to find out how I can help you move forward with your life, health, food, and body goals, please let me know by completing this form. My passion for guiding you to feel and look better is in my DNA. If you send an email to email@example.com with the subject PILLAR and your contact info, I will gladly add you to my Health Matters newsletter plus call you for a complimentary discussion.
Copyright ©2019 Rosie Bank