I hear it all the time: taking care of yourself is too expensive.
In a way, it's true. Organic, whole foods, gym memberships, exercise clothes, and hiring a coach can really add up! No joke, all my money goes to it.
That being said, there are a lot of things I do that don't cost me a dime that are crucial to my wellness plan. I know how expensive the holiday season is so I wanted to give you a couple of free exercises to focus on that helps reduce stress and strengthen your mindset muscle (an important part of any health, weight loss, or symptom management plan!)
When we stress mentally, physically, or emotionally, we're triggering the fight or flight stress response. That response puts us into a state where our only concern is survival so we start burning sugar instead of fat, creating inflammation to protect cells and tissues, and we're creating inflammation around the frontal lobe which affects decision making. If you're trying to slow down symptoms or lose weight, you're setting yourself up for failure when you constantly trigger your fight or flight but luckily, there are a few completely free ways to take you our of your fight or flight and put you into your rest and digest state. The goal is to align your mind and body to set you up for healing.
Exercise 1: Practice deep belly breathing
Have you ever gotten really stressed out and then sat down to take a few deep breaths? You feel better within a few minutes and thats because stress has a huge impact on our physical body. To get the most benefits from deep breathing, you want to sit in a comfortable position, put your hands on your belly, and breathe in until your belly fully expands. Then breath out.
This isn't meditation, it's simply to learn how to breathe effectively to put your body in it's rest and digest state so that your nervous system can be working in your favor.
Exercise 2: Spend time in silence
This is a busy time of year and it's a time where you tend to focus on everyone else BUT you. Instead of allowing the season to overwhelm you, carve out a little time each day to be silent. That means no phone, no distractions, just a couple of minutes to be quiet and give your brain a stimulus rest.
This allows your brain to rest and relax so it can make clear, focused & effective decisions instead of exhausted and "fried out" ones.
Exercise 3: Monitor your heart rate
Continually stressing the body puts you at risk for increased inflammation and late night cravings and by not checking your heart rate, you don't know if your workouts are working for or against you. This can easily be achieved by monitoring your heart rate.
And I know, those heart rate monitors on the market right now are cool, but crazy expensive and wearing a chest strap looks annoying. I get it. But you're forgetting something.... humans have been tracking their heart rate far before technology.
Every 5 minutes, stop your workout and take your pulse with your fingers on your wrist. Count the beats for 15 seconds and then multiply that number by 4. Keep your workouts in your fat burning range and not only will you see the scale drop, you may have a reduction in those workout provoked symptoms.
Exercise 4: Stretch your body
Real talk, it's crazy that we don't stretch more. Especially considering that most of us sit at desks all day, stretching could do us a world of good but few of us do it! Taking 10-15 minutes in the morning to stretch will release tension, increase flexibility, and helps you feel "less tight" through your day.
Try a yoga class or the yoga studio app to learn all the best ways to stretch and release your muscles.
Exercise 5: Write in a journal every morning
This exercise (Morning Pages) was developed by Julia Cameron and is incredibly powerful. Basically, each morning, you write 3 pages of whatever you want. In the beginning, 3 pages may seem like a lot, but even if you're just clearing out the cobwebs in your brain (what you ate yesterday, how you feel about work, etc), that's just making space for inspiration and creativity to flow. Soon, ideas will start coming out and 3 pages won't seem like enough room to get it all out!
Remember, these are all just suggestions (and there are so many more things you can do!) and by no means do you have to do them all at once. Pick one and make it into a routine. As that gets easier, you can always add more!
If you try any of these, already do them, or have your own free mindfulness practice - leave a comment below to let us know about your experience!
Peace, love & light.