Fitness and Stress Management

Stress and physical activity are things that we deal with daily, but you may be surprised at how related they are. Even a small amount of physical fitness can boost your “feel good” endorphins and act as a distraction from day-to-day worries and stressors. If you find yourself stressed on a regular basis, exercise could be a healthy form of stress management.

Exercise and physical activity increases neurotransmitters called endorphins. If you have ever heard anyone talk about a “runner’s high,” they are actually referring to the increase in endorphins they experience from the act of physical activity. Endorphins trigger positive feelings in the body similar to morphine without the negative effects of drug use/abuse. Endorphins are also known to act as analgesic, which means they diminish the perception of pain. They also act as a sedative and can increase healthy sleep patterns, which are directly related to stress, anxiety, and depression.

While involved in a high paced activity, you will often find yourself concentrating on your bodily movements, rather than concentrating on the day-to-day irritations and stressors. As a result, many find themselves able to focus on tasks better, tackle projects with increased energy and enthusiasm, and have a more optimistic attitude in general.

Even if exercise has not been a word in your vocabulary for quite some time, building up levels of physical activity can have immediate positive effects on your overall wellbeing. If it has been awhile, start slow and increase as you go along. It helps to choose activities that you already find enjoyable.

Also, pencil in some physical activity on your weekly agenda; this will help you stick with goals you set for yourself. Exercise is worth the time slot in your schedule as regular exercise has been proven to reduce stress levels, boost self-esteem, ward off anxiety and depression, and improve sleep.

Keeping Yourself Relevant in the Workplace

Whether you just started a new position or you’ve been in the same position for 10 years, it’s important to remain relevant in your field for your own confidence as well as potential job progression. Here are a few ways to keep yourself relevant in the workplace:

  • Develop your skills: Stay updated on publications, technologies, and processes related to your profession.
  • Invest in yourself: If you aren’t willing to invest in yourself, then who will? Look for seminars, trainings, and books that will develop you as a professional but not break the bank.
  • Join a professional association: Professional associations allow you to network, provide you with training opportunities, send out newsletters with valuable information, and hold conferences.
  • Volunteer: Consider volunteering a few hours a week at an association that you feel an affinity toward. Volunteering can push you out of your comfort zone and help you to grow.
  • Network: Networking is not the same as job searching. Talking to other professionals in your field helps you to grow and remain relevant among your colleagues.
  • Hone your leadership skills: Never shy away from an opportunity to lead something. This not only helps you to develop and refine skills but also creates visibility in the workplace.
  • Challenge yourself: Seek out opportunities to step outside of your comfort zone and help you to grow- even if you can’t see how it relates to your career at the time. Any confidence you gain in your personal life will translate to your professional life.

Retirement Savings: Focus on Starting Today

If you’re just beginning to put money away for retirement, start saving and investing as much as you can now and let compound interest have an opportunity to work in your favor. The more you can invest when you’re young, the better off you’ll be. If a 25 year old starts investing $75 per month, they will have more money by age 65 than someone that starts at 35 years old investing $100 per month due to interest.

  • Rather than thinking, “I will start my retirement for a New Year’s resolution,” START NOW!
  • Make sure to at least match your employers’ 401k contribution percentage.
  • Check with your HR department to see if you employer offers Roth and Traditional 401k plans and see which better suits your retirement plans by asking more questions.

Another way to start saving for retirement is to rein in your spending. Examine your budget and see where you are spending too much money and what you could start saving for the future. This will also help you to set up a realistic spending plan for when you are retired.

Motivation Isn’t Real

People often operate in waves of action that are inspired by something. An event, situation or external cue that drives them to FEEL a certain way.  Take New Years for example.  We get excited and start setting these wonderful goals to achieve.  By February, we’ve lost the spark that ignited those goals and the actions you took for a few weeks.

The emotion we feel about obtaining a goal is what drives our action toward it. Emotion determines action. What most people rely on is the outside event or external cue to influence that emotion. Ultimately, motivation is a misconception. Motivation is merely your ability to CREATE your own spark that will make you take action.  That spark is created through decision making.

Not everyone wants to wake up and exercise each morning.  The decision is yours.  There is no external cue that can make you decide to put on those sneakers and run out the door.  The only person who can control that, is you.  Sure, there are days you want to hit snooze. Progress equals happiness. If you decide to take action, even if it’s only 2 millimeters more than what you did the day before, you are more likely to achieve your goals.  Most of the actions we want to take each day are very easy to do and yet, very easy not to do.

The only difference between you and someone who is disciplined is decision.  So what will you decide to do for yourself today?

Healthy for the Holidays

The holidays tend to be the most chaotic time of year for most families. Not only do we have to balance our normal daily grind, but we add holiday parties, shopping, decorating, family time and entertainment on top of it. The most common issue with the holiday season is time management. When we are limited on time, we tend to make poor food choices, skip workouts and even miss out on some much needed sleep.

This year, take a stand for your own sanity and implement the following “Healthy for the Holidays” tips:

1.      Stock up on healthy meals. In October, prepare a few crock pot meals and freeze. This will help you stay on track and skip the fast food. It’s also a good idea to have a few easy snacks on hand for the kids. Regular or dried fruit, nuts and granola bars are perfect snacks that can be easily packed.

2.      Make physical activity non-negotiable. It’s easy to skip a workout when you’re short on time. Schedule in physical activity no matter what to avoid the holiday weight gain. Go sled riding with the kids, walk around your building over lunch, hit the gym or do a home workout program that’s under 30 minutes. The more calories you burn, the less weight you will pack on, even with a few holiday treats.

3.      Indulge on specific days. The entire month of December has somehow turned into a four week binge on cookies, cakes, gravy and pie. Pick specific days to indulge so you don’t feel guilty and don’t fall into the “holiday slump”.  If Grandma’s home-made cookies are your favorite treat, wait for Christmas dinner to enjoy them and skip the store bought cookies at your work party.

4.      Take it easy on the alcohol.  Beer, wine & spirits are a staple for most holiday events. To avoid extra calories or a hangover, stick within the 1-3 drink range. Drink water between each beverage. Dry wine and lite beer have less sugar and tend to be less calories.

5.      Get Some Sleep. The holidays are stressful enough without the added factor of staying up past your bedtime. Shut down the electronics 1 hours before bed. Logging extra quality Zzzz’s will not only keep your mental health in check and help your immune system as well.