Doing This Will Positively Impact Your Mental Health
A top trainer and nutritionist shares the number one thing we should all be doing to manage stress and anxiety during the holidays and beyond.
As most of the US moves inside for the winter, pandemic news isn’t pretty. If you haven’t lost your job already, it doesn’t look like you’ll be heading back to the office any time soon, and if you’re an essential worker, you have the added stress of potential exposure to the virus every day on the job. Even Michelle Obama admitted on her podcast in August to being one of the one in three Americans dealing with stress and anxiety right now.
Whatever your circumstances, the future is uncertain enough that it is affecting us in different ways, making it difficult to concentrate and sleep. So, what is something we can all do to make us feel better right now? One word – MOVE.
I don’t mean change where you live, I mean stand up, sit down, take the stairs, stretch, do a few jumping jacks, go for a walk. Physical exercise increases the production of feel-good chemicals in your brain, takes your mind off of the things that are stressing you out, tires you out so you can sleep, and can increase feelings of accomplishment or self-esteem by giving you control over something at a time when everything in your life might feel out of control.
I recently spoke with Los Angeles nutritionist, personal trainer, and founder of The Shrink Shop Joanne Lee Cornish about exercise and she shared five valuable tips to help folks at every level prioritize movement as a coping mechanism. Something we need now more than ever.
1. Get A Coach
Whether it’s in person or online, get a coach. “No one learns to ride a horse without a trainer, or to play golf or to play an instrument,” says Joanne. It should be the same with exercise. This way you don’t, at best, waste time and, at worst, end up getting hurt. Getting a trainer, “is the best investment you will ever make,” according to Joanne (and I wholeheartedly agree). “Results will come faster and you’ll gain an understanding that lasts beyond your sessions with your coach.”
2. Set Realistic Goals
Don’t set yourself up to fail. According to Joanne, exercise itself can cause undue stress. “If you train too long, too hard, too often it can heighten an anxious state,” and failing to reach lofty goals can be depressing, too.
Joanne’s suggestion? Set one single boundary, like going for a walk every other day or not eating after 6PM. Once you adhere to that boundary consistently, say for two months, then add another. “The good thing about boundaries is that there is no wiggle room,” says Joanne. Boundaries take the depleting energy associated with making decisions – should I or shouldn’t I? – out of the equation, which makes the goal easier to attain. “If a boundary has no wiggle room there is zero decision to make.”
3. Make Technology Your Friend
Companies like Peloton and Tonal, for example, have brought cutting-edge workouts into your home. But, Joanne says, “the best exercise is the one you enjoy and repeat” on a consistent basis. My suggestion is to explore online classes, Instagram accounts and even ask your favorite trainers about rates for Zoom sessions. The great thing about all of this is that you could potentially work with someone like Joanne, who is spending the majority of her time at her new home in Idaho now.
4. Consistency Is Key
According to Joanne, “being able to record your progress is a huge motivator.” You can keep track of your workouts on an old-school paper calendar, use a fitness tracker, a heart rate monitor, or any of the thousands of apps available. “Whether you are fasting, counting macronutrients, gaining splat points (a measure of minutes spend in your orange and red heart rate zones), or hitting personal bests when you see you have a 10-day streak or you get that reminder in your inbox,” it is an awesome reminder of your accomplishments. You. Are. Powerful.
I am an emotional eater so I use the My Plate Calorie Counter App from Livestrong. It lets me record my workouts and my meals all in one.
5. Switch It Up
Are you someone who went to the gym religiously and now you don’t know what to do with yourself? Are you a runner who just can’t find the strength to lace up your sneakers one more time? “Change the focus and change it big,” says Joanne.
“If the goal was strength, go for endurance, if the goal was distance, change it to speed. If you are staying within the same exercise arena, then change the exercises completely.” If you have been lifting really heavyweights in the gym, this is the perfect opportunity to try something completely new. “You’ll get to experience that newbie high all over again,” Joanne says. “You’ll be starting from scratch so results will come quickly, and you’ll be energized and excited about the new world you just entered.”
Exciting and new. Isn’t that exactly what we all need right now?