I have to say that I am very lucky this year. Tom and I are heading to Columbia after Christmas – so for the first time in a long time, I can say I am really taking advantage of this whole holiday “break” that is upon us (HOW DID THAT HAPPEN SO FAST??) But what if you can’t get away? Studies have shown time and time again that we (as a society) are too logged in – too connected and engaged. Too stressed.
Dr. Jame Sadler writes in an article for Dallas News called The danger of stress – and how to fight it that “according to the Harvard Mental Health Letter (March 2011), sustained stress levels can contribute to high blood pressure, clogged arteries and specific brain changes that perpetuate anxiety and may lead to depression and addiction. They suggest that ‘chronic stress’ may lead to obesity due to increased appetite and lack of both sleep and exercise. Not surprisingly, technology has increased depression, anxiety and sleep disorders (University of Gothenburg, 2012). In 2011, the American Psychological Association reported that approximately 25 percent of Americans experienced stress levels as high as 8 out of 10 (on a 10-point scale). Another 50 percent reported moderate stress levels as high as 4 to 7 out of 10. The cause of these symptoms can frequently be attributed to multitasking in our busy life. We bring work home when we should decompress. We choose this work over exercise, which is an activity that could relieve our stress.”
Basically – we ALL NEED A BREAK! I would like to challenge our FIT readers to really embrace your holiday break this year. Even if you can’t get away, or even if you are technically getting away – but that means fighting millions of travelers with three sick children to get to a houseful of stressful family members, there are little ways to de-stress, disengage, disconnect, and be present.
One way to “get away” from your own bad habits is to practice Mindfulness. According to Psychology Today, Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience. AKA: put down your iphone and really listen to what your child, or parent, or spouse is saying. Disconnect from Facebook this week to stay present to your own experience instead of comparing the experience to everyone else’s. Take a few pictures of the Christmas tree or your pet in a silly Santa hat, and then put down the camera and actually live in the moment and commit the moment to memory. Eat mindfully too. Have a cookie and then walk away. Do you really want another cookie twenty minutes later? Have a glass of wine and then have a glass of water. Assess whether you really want to eat or drink more or if you are just mindlessly drinking and eating. Check your work email and then put it away. Checking in every hour won’t help anyone (particularly those co-workers who are really trying to stay present with family). Unless there is a huge fire to put out, getting to that email a day later should be fine.
Make sure to take some time for yourself as well next week. If you have kids, see if your spouse or a grandparent or sibling can step in for an hour so that you can go for a run/walk or sneak into a yoga class. Or, heck, just sleep in for a bit! Then you can offer to do the same for them so that they can make a little time for something they need. Another good suggestion? Make a healthful breakfast for everyone after that calorie laden Christmas Eve or Christmas Day dinner because YOU want it. If you can lower your stress level a little bit, everyone will be thankful you took the time for yourself. Wouldn’t it be lovely to start 2015 feeling rested and ready instead of hungover and cranky?
So with this in mind, I would like to announce that the FITgals will be taking a break until the New Year to revamp our website, blog, and prep for some exciting announcements. We suggest you all unplug, reboot, and enjoy a real “break”.