NO STRESS ZONE.
When life gets crazy, some people retreat into their running. Others take the opposite approach—they put running on the back burner to devote all their time and mental energy to the current crisis. Research on exercise and stress is firmly in favour of the first camp. It found that staying active during work crunches, family emergencies, relationship troubles, and the like will help you experience the stressors less severely and survive the situation in better physical and mental health.
Research in lab settings has found reduced emotional reaction to artificially induced stress after people exercise. For example, in a University of Maryland study, people who looked at unpleasant images 15 minutes after a half-hour workout showed lower levels of anxiety than people who looked at the images after sitting quietly for 30 minutes. Of course, runners have long intuited the value of maintaining some semblance of routine during hectic times. Doing so usually provides a short respite from your worries, gives you a focused opportunity to think through things, and helps you feel like you haven’t lost complete control of your life.
What’s significant about this new research is that it compared people’s activity levels to their recall of real-world stressors and confirmed that getting out the door on tough days is key to those days not seeming as bad.
The research, published in Health Psychology, had more than 2,000 adults track their exercise and recall stressful life situations for eight consecutive days. The daily-life events included arguments with others, avoiding arguments with others, discrimination, stress at work, home, or school, and stress involving a family member or close friend. The researchers did two key sorts on the data they collected: first, between generally underactive people and regular exercisers; and second, between how people recalled their stress levels on days they exercised and days when they didn’t.
Specifically, the researchers measured what’s known as “negative affect reactivity,” or how you emotionally experience unpleasant events. Having low negative affect is roughly akin to emotional stability; you experience unpleasant situations but aren’t overwhelmed by them. Low negative affect is good not only in the moment—your day isn’t ruined because your boss yelled at you—but also long-term, because you’re less likely to suffer the health consequences of frequent swings in your blood pressure and stress-hormone levels. To capture which subjects had low negative affect in response to stressful events, the researchers had them rate the degree (from “not at all” to “all the time”) to which a stressor made them feel angry, sad, shameful, nervous, or anxious.
There was no difference between how often active and less-active subjects had stressful days. What was different was that, on high-stress days, the regular exercisers’ negative affect was 14 percent lower than that of the other subjects. That is, the same sorts of bad things happened, but the exercisers were significantly less rankled by them. Eli Puterman, Ph.D., the lead researcher and a professor of kinesiology at the University of British Columbia, said that exercisers’ edge in this matter is probably a combination of reacting less severely as the stressor is happening and not remembering the stress as severe at the end of the day.
“We are constantly rewriting our memories, so of course, if exercise makes me happy or calm more often, I might interpret the stressor as less impactful as it’s happening but I might also recall it later as less stressful,” he wrote in an email.
Indeed, there’s growing consensus that, as a review of research published in Clinical Psychology Review put it, ‘exercise training recruits a process which confers enduring resilience to stress.’ This phenomenon is thought to be related to structural brain changes, such as the growth of and better connection between neurons, caused by running and other forms of aerobic exercise.
So, as a runner, you’re better equipped to survive high-stress times. Still, on any given stressful day (no matter how severe), you should still try to get out for a run. The researchers found that the subjects’ negative affect was 17 percent lower on days when they worked out. And this finding comes with a special gold star for regular exercisers: They got that benefit regardless of when they worked out. The less-active people, in contrast, got the biggest boost in handling stress if an event happened soon after a workout, then saw their emotional stability dissipate as more time passed since exercising.
The takeaway: make that much more of an effort to find time to run when you know it’s going to be a stressful day.’“My best advice is to schedule workouts, because when you’re stressed, it’s really difficult to feel that you have the time or energy to work out,’ Puterman said. It doesn’t have to be a long or hard run—a few easy miles at a conversational pace will do the trick. Consider that time your secret weapon in handling whatever life throws at you that day.
In 2020, I am vowing to only date men committed to prioritizing their emotional and mental health. If he doesn’t go to therapy, I’m not interested.
In my last serious relationship, I had both the benefit of exploring my toxic behavior patterns and the burden of being with a partner who refused to do the same. Our relationship started to shift when, during the height of an argument, I grew frustrated when my attempts at “helping” him solve a problem were being ignored. He followed up, like he often did, by screaming at the top of his lungs. Then he said something that snatched the movement from my body: “I’m not your project or something you can control.”
This was my second relationship where what I called “the lack of appreciation for my help” my partner called “controlling.” I realized I was the common denominator here.
What started as an exploration of trying to understand my own harmful behaviors ended in a commitment to therapy. There, I learned to call my attraction to “broken” men something more than a lack of gratitude or control; the illusion of “fixing” them allowed me to ignore all the areas where I was fractured. It allowed me to overlook the ways childhood traumas shaped my current relationship choices. It was classic avoidance.
For months, I remained both in the relationship and in therapy to do the deeper work on myself. I directed my gaze away from scrutinizing his behavior and toward addressing the root of my own. I practiced mindfulness to reduce anxiety, used journaling to record and disrupt unhealthy patterns, and rotated coping mechanisms until I found one that fit. I was slowly forming healthy new habits. The need to control others was replaced by a desire for self-improvement.
Meanwhile, he refused to go to therapy or even examine his own harmful patterns. He saw therapy as a “useless waste of time” that had nothing to do with “real life.” Besides, “nobody” in his family believed in “that stuff” and they all turned out “fine.”
My former partner was not an anomaly. According to the American Psychological Association, research shows “men of all ages and ethnicities are less likely than women to seek help for all sorts of problems — including depression and substance abuse.” Which is particularly alarming considering the data that suggests “men make up over 75 percent of suicide victims in the United States.
O’Brien Wimbish, a clinically trained therapist who specializes in intimacy and infidelity recovery, told Vox, “A lot of men are still operating under an unhealthy belief that addressing their feelings isn’t masculine. They think talking about their emotions — or even identifying an emotion other than rage — can make them what they consider soft. So they shut down, or sometimes become more aggressive, in their interpersonal relationships.”
Wimbish, who has never treated me or my former partner, offered a perspective that was consistent with my experience. During the course of our relationship, my former partner’s propensity for screaming escalated to name-calling, and conflicts reached an all-time high. Or perhaps my tolerance for toxic relationships hit at an all-time low. But eventually, his version of love was no longer enough. I wanted reciprocity.
I ended that relationship aware that constant self-work is a prerequisite for an emotionally healthier life and, if both parties are committed to it, the possibility of a healthy relationship.
To be clear, therapy is not a magic pill. “Committing to therapy does not mean your relationship will be immune to trials,” Wimbish said, “but it certainly helps if both parties are fully invested in doing the work for their individual growth.”
Therapy is also not cheap. Mental health providers in many cities can charge $75-$150 for a 45-minute session. Rates in New York City can be upward of $200 per hour. Therapists like Wimbish mitigate this by offering a sliding scale for payments. Sometimes, when the cost is still too high for me, I scale back and reserve sessions for particularly stressful seasons. And if a sliding payment scale is still a financial burden, research suggests regular practices of things like mindful meditation and creating a positive social support system can be forms of self-work. Wimbish added, “establishing an accountability system centered around a self-improvement goal can increase success and sustainability.”
There’s also the fact that therapy doesn’t work if you don’t apply it once the session is over. As Wimbish said, “You will not get the full benefits of therapy sessions without doing the homework assigned. It requires a personal commitment outside of my office.” If therapy has taught me anything, it’s taught me that the real work starts when you go home and use a new coping skill in response to stress or anxiety, instead of engaging in a familiar unhealthy habit.
These days, I have refined my approach to dating. Now, during that early stage when a man mentions how long he’s been single, instead of inquiring about the details of the breakup, I ask how he managed the healing process. I recently met a guy who wasn’t alarmed by the question. Without pause, he identified a couple of healthy coping strategies provided by his therapist. This on its own does not mean he will be the best partner for me. Rather, it suggests that he recognizes self-work as an individual process, one that he isn’t socialized to be ashamed of. Which is a healthy start.
Never in my life, when suffering from physical pain, have I said to myself “I must do yoga to take my mind off this!” However, there is one person who has made me re-think pain. Her name is Christine, and she says that yoga is her pain relief. But she's not talking about localized pain; this is chronic pain, which derives from multiple sclerosis (MS).* Multiple sclerosis literally means "many scars," an etymology which can indicate just how painful this disease can be.
It’s not just yoga that helps Christine deal with her MS (which is now in a progressive state); it’s also her positive attitude which enables her to transform any negative emotions she has toward pain. “I've heard a quote about how a spiritual being has a human experience," she says. "These words give me a reason for going through this, like it’s meant to be my experience.”
It is this outlook that enables Christine to be mindful when it comes to experiencing emotions such as sadness and anxiety, which numerous studies have shown can aggravate pain. (A famous example and one of the very first research papers on the subject explored how wounded soldiers in World War II expressed less pain than civilians with comparable wounds—likely because the soldiers were so happy to be off the battlefield— demonstrating that one's mental state can play a key role in modulating physical pain.)
For me, as a yoga teacher and science writer, Christine’s words demonstrate the remarkable person that she is. Although I have never met her, I feel that I know her because I have heard so much about her from my yoga colleague Julia Green (we work together as co-founders of WriteIntoYoga). Together, Julia and I meet many people who are not usually able to express themselves, but when we ask them to tell us what yoga means to them (at our writing and yoga retreats and workshops), then the emotive words come flooding out. I emailed this question to Christine and her words touched my heart: She said that without yoga, she wouldn’t be here right now. Words that, given her personal story, hold such a significant meaning.
But it is Julia who has the honor of teaching Christine. Julia is an expert when it comes to teaching yoga to people with challenging conditions where bones can easily break or muscles are frequently pulled. "I first met Christine when her daughter, a doctor, approached me five years ago to teach a private yoga session," she explains. "When we first started working together, Christine was able to get down on the floor, and we would do postures like child's pose, cobra, and cat; we even modified tree pose so that she could do it lying down. But since then, she has suffered a severely damaged knee from a fall, a broken sternum bone, and two broken vertebrae from muscle spasms that are symptoms of her MS. Later, after these injuries, we modified the poses further so she could use a chair."
Despite these setbacks, since she started practicing, the longest Christine has gone without yoga has been about two weeks for each injury. However, she says that she never wants to stop because if she doesn’t stretch she is in pain, and without yoga she feels worse. So even though her body is changing, she has never given up on yoga. "When my arms are stretched for me, the relief is almost indescribable," Christine explains. "When most people wake up in the morning they stretch without thinking about it. I can only think about it! I have no movement but my limbs are not numb—I just feel heavier as my joints stiffen. Then we do yoga and I breathe a sigh of relief."
For Julia, part of the challenge is being prepared, because every day that she works with Christine is a little bit different. She says: "Another challenge for me as a teacher has been simply learning about MS. I have spent hours, days, and weeks studying so that I can better understand how to teach her, but MS is tough. It's hard to fully understand because there is no known cure and everyone with it suffers differently. Therefore, when Christine and I work together, I focus on how she feels rather than trying to teach out of a textbook."
"Christine is by far the most determined woman I have ever met," she emphasizes, "and she always seems to stay upbeat. She accepts each day as it comes, whether good or bad. Knowing her is humbling. When I ask her how she maintains such a positive attitude, she tells me that her mood is managed by her yoga and goes so far as to say that yoga has helped her to hold back time. As her MS changes we face it and deal with her unspoken aches and pains together."
"Julia always asks me if I have any new aches and pains," adds Christine, "or if anything is particularly bad that day. [MS] is not a condition you can ignore, but I don't like talking about it to my friends and family; I don't like to burden anyone with it. I only talk to Julia as she isn't fazed by anything I say, and we can laugh together. I'm not sure I could laugh about this condition with anyone else. We don't speak about tomorrow or what might happen next week. We talk about what I'm going to do when I can walk again.”
"One thing Christina has always said to me over the years," says Julia, "is 'I wish I could somehow send a message out there to everyone with my condition and tell them to try yoga. It is such a relief.'”
Christine says that yoga stretches alleviate the dull aches and pains she feels throughout her body, and adds, “Before we start yoga I feel heavy, tight, and stiff, but as my arms and legs are stretched out into the various poses and positions I feel light, comfortable, and more relaxed than I can ever explain.”
And Julia can certainly vouch for that: "As our sessions near their close, Christine is sometimes so relaxed that I have to wake her up after our final meditation to say our closing Namaste!"
"I have trouble sleeping because I can’t move in bed," explains Christine. "It hurts not being able to move. Sometimes I [feel] pins and needles, sometimes I get cramps, and sometimes I get muscle spasms. But I am unable to move in order to adjust or get rid of any of it. The muscle spasms have been so violent I've broken my spine—it’s broken right now as you're interviewing me! I always ask Julia to come 'round as soon as my carers have gotten me up, as a stretch in the morning not only helps with the pain that’s been brought on by lying in one position all night, but it also helps me face the day."
Though Christine has found asana to be immensely helpful, she's also found great benefit from other aspects of yoga. "We do breathing exercises [too]," she says. "Sometimes due to the blankets feeling so heavy on my chest, I get up in the morning struggling for breath. Yoga helps with that as well. I've tried to get my husband to help me stretch before bed to help me sleep, but it’s not just stretching [that helps], is it? It’s yoga."
Obviously the stretches Christine does now are not the typical yoga poses you see in the pages of magazines, but they are modifications and variations of those poses. And for her, they work. And Christine wants everyone to know they work. So for others with MS or other chronic pain her message is this: "Give yoga a try!"
"I'm proud to be Christine's yoga teacher," says Julia, "but really, she has been MY teacher in so many ways too. MS is an unkind bully, but Christine is a shining example of a person who won't be beaten by it. She has also taught me so much about yoga itself. If I hadn't met her I would never have learned as much as I have about MS, and I wouldn't have learned so many ways to adapt the poses. Working with her has kept me on my toes as I constantly have to keep abreast of what is happening in the MS world and even more importantly, I have to keep studying adaptations to keep her safe. She keeps me learning."
*Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune disorder that affects movement, sensation, and bodily functions. It is caused by the destruction of the myelin insulation covering nerve fibres (neurons) in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).
Ear seeds are small seeds used to stimulate pressure points in your ear. They’re a type of auriculotherapy, which refers to acupressure or acupuncture focused on the ear.
They’re based on the same general principles as acupuncture. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), your health depends on the flow of qi (energy) in your body.
According to TCM, this energy travels along invisible pathways, known as meridians. Meridians are found throughout your body, including your ears.
Ear seeds are placed on certain points, usually along meridian lines, to help clear up any qi blockages. In TCM, resolving these blockages may help with a variety of health conditions.
Read on to learn more about ear seeds, including their potential benefits and how to use them.
What do people use them for?
People claim ear seeds help with a range of health issues, including:
How do I use them?
While it’s possible to place ear seeds yourself, it’s usually best to see a trained acupuncturist for your first time.
They can go over the symptoms you’d like to address and help you find the corresponding points on your ear. They can also show you how to properly place the seeds.
Traditionally, ear seeds come from the flowering herb vaccaria. But today, you can also find metal or ceramic beads.
Most acupuncturists who do ear seed placement have their own seeds, but you can also purchase your own online.
If you do want to try them yourself, follow these steps:
While using ear seeds, check your ears each day for signs of irritation, such as:
Is there any evidence to back up their use?
There aren’t many high-quality studies about ear seeds and other forms of auriculotherapy.
However, the few that do exist suggest ear seeds may be beneficial for certain conditions, especially when used alongside other treatments. More research is needed to fully explore the benefits and side effects, though.
Low back painResults of a 2013 studyTrusted Source looking at 19 people living with chronic low back pain suggest ear seeds could help reduce pain and improve mobility.
Participants were randomly divided into two groups. The first group had ear seeds placed on points associated with low back pain. The second group had ear seeds placed in random points on the ear.
The first group noticed better results than the second group after four weeks of treatment. Participants in the first group noted an overall decrease in pain intensity of 75 percent. The improvement lasted for at least a month.
A 2015 literature reviewTrusted Source looked at 15 studies on auricular acupuncture with ear seeds for insomnia. Together, the studies indicated that the combination of ear seeds and acupuncture seemed to reduce insomnia symptoms.
However, the authors of the review noted several flaws in studies they analyzed, including small sample sizes, low-quality study models, and potential biases.
A 2015 studyTrusted Source compared the minimum and maximum sensations of pain felt by 16 healthy people before and after using ear seeds. The results suggest that using ear seeds could increase pain tolerance.
Keep in mind that pain tolerance refers to how much pain a person can withstand. This is different from a pain threshold, which is the point at which someone starts feeling pain.
Are they safe to try?
Ear seeds are generally safe. They’re noninvasive and don’t require the use of needles, so there’s a much lower risk of infection or bleeding compared to acupuncture.
However, if you have sensitive skin or a latex allergy, metal seeds or adhesive tape might cause some irritation. If your skin tends to get irritated by metal, stick with ceramic or vaccaria seeds.
Some people also develop small sores around the seeds. This is often due to massaging the seeds too frequently or not letting the ears rest before applying new seeds.
In addition, some people do experience side effects while using ear seeds, including brief spells of:
While these side effects aren’t very common, it’s best to avoid driving immediately after massaging your ear seeds until you know how your body reacts.
Generally, it’s always a good idea to check in with your healthcare provider before trying any new treatment, including ear seeds.
If you’re pregnant, don’t try ear seeds or other forms of auriculotherapy before talking to your healthcare provider. Some points may induce early labor.
The bottom line
Ear seeds, a type of traditional Chinese medicine related to acupuncture and acupressure, may be a cost-effective approach to complementary treatment.
This is especially the case if you’re interested in acupuncture but prefer a noninvasive approach.
While scientific evidence supporting the benefits of ear seeds is limited, existing research does suggest ear seeds may provide relief from certain things, including insomnia and pain.
Put the stressor in an imaginary drawer and shut it!
We are accustomed to believing we must work out every problem, struggling with it until we find a solution. Some problems do not have solutions, at least for a while, and rather than stressing yourself out when there is no answer to be found, give yourself a break and move on.
Take a deep breath out!
A good friend of mine once gave me a great tape by an Eastern master. I listened to it a few times. I knew I would never become a yogi, but I learned an important piece of advice from the tape. When I feel overwhelmed, I stop and take a deep breath out! Somehow, when you breathe in, you are bringing into your body all the stress and worry from the outside world. When you breathe out, all the stuff you held in just dissipates from you. It may not make my problems go away, but my load becomes much lighter. Try it. Take three breaths in through your nose into your lungs and belly, counting to five. Hold for the count of five and let them out through your mouth to the count of seven. See how you feel.
Pause, even for a second!
In tennis, the difference between an average and a good tennis player is timing. A split-second delay allows you to focus better and see where the ball is going, how to better hit it and how to direct your shot. Take the split-second delay concept and apply it to your life. Before reacting in a stressful situation, after you take a deep breath out, stop for a few seconds. In these few seconds, you can consider if it is worth reacting to, or if there are better ways to deal with the situation. The split-second delay allows you to become aware of yourself and your surroundings. The message is: Don’t react immediately, because you may not need to react at all. I’m not recommending you start intellectualizing everything and lose the spontaneity that makes you unique and life interesting; just stop for a split second, and think about what you really want to do. As we age we learn that drama is a bad thing in our lives. It creates negative energy and stress, which release cortisol and other destructive hormones. So less drama, less stress, better health.
Stop feeling stuck in the past!
When something happens that you have no control over, let go of it! Be sad, mourn the situation, the person, but holding onto it or trying to make believe it did not happen, or wishing it hadn’t happened, will only make your stress levels go up. I find many male patients stuck in their youth. They believe their best days are behind them — high school football, college swimming, their 20s. If you believe the best is in your past, then that will be true. Instead, look at how you can make the present better. Don’t miss today by wasting precious energy on yesterday.
Take one step at a time!
I think my life is overwhelming most of the time because I find myself biting off more than I can chew. I don’t know how to say no. Unfortunately, I found out the hard way that if I do less, I accomplish more and leave a lot less disappointment behind. Start saying no once in a while. You’ll stay focused and move ahead faster. Give up on doing 20 things at once. Think of your life as a stove. Move everything you don’t need to do today to the back burner. See how much better and less cluttered your life becomes.
Source: Thrive Global
We all know the benefits of taking some time to be a bit more mindful throughout our day. Research into mindful exercise, such as meditation, has shown that it can reduce stress, chronic pain and levels of depression. The NHS has even confirmed that mindfulness helps mental wellbeing.
But the benefits don’t stop there. New research has found another interesting way that mindful exercise can benefit us – especially if you’re prone to being clumsy or forgetful.
What did the study on meditation find?
A new study conducted by Michigan State University, which was published in Brain Sciences, has found that meditation could help you to become less error prone.
The research tested how open monitoring mediation – a type of meditation that focuses awareness on feelings, thoughts or suggestions as they unfold in a person’s mind and body - altered brain activity in a way that suggests increased error recognition.
What is open monitoring meditation?
“Some forms of meditation have you focus on a single object, commonly your breath, but open monitoring meditation is a bit different,” said Jeff Lin, MSU psychology doctoral candidate and study co-author.
“It has you tune inward and pay attention to everything going on in your mind and body. The goal is to sit quietly and pay close attention to where the mind travels without getting too caught up in the scenery.”
How did they conduct the study?
The study used 200 participants who had never meditated before. It took them through a 20-minute open monitoring meditation session while researchers measured brain activity using electroencephalography (EEG). They then completed a computerised distraction test.
“The EEG can measure brain activity at the millisecond level, so we got precise measures of neural activity right after mistakes compared to correct responses,” Lin said explained.
“A certain neural signal occurs about half a second after an error called the error positivity, which is linked to conscious error recognition. We found that the strength of this signal is increased in the meditators relative to controls.”
Although the meditators didn’t have immediate improvements to actual task performance, the researchers’ findings offer a promising window into the potential of sustained meditation.
“These findings are a strong demonstration of what just 20 minutes of meditation can do to enhance the brain’s ability to detect and pay attention to mistakes,” said co-author Jason Moser.
“It makes us feel more confident in what mindfulness meditation might really be capable of for performance and daily functioning right there in the moment.”
So, is it worth practicing open monitoring meditation? There’s still plenty of research to be done, according to Lin, but it’s certainly worth giving it a go.
We have jobs to do, bills to pay, kids to raise, and errands to run. But if you think you're too busy to fit in a workout a few times a week, a new study—published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease—may force you to rethink a few things.
As it turns out, Americans do have quite a bit of free time—and they're not using it in the healthiest ways.
How much "free time" Americans really have.
Conducted by a nonprofit research organization called the RAND Corporation, the study collected data from over 32,000 Americans ages 15 and older, between the years 2014 and 2016. They asked the participants to record their activities for one day, noting everything they did for a full 24 hours, and then analyzed the data to uncover how the participants were spending their free time.
If you're wondering what counts as "free time"—since it could be interpreted very differently by different people—you're in luck because the authors defined it very specifically. Free time was time not spent on work, commuting, sleeping, or doing household activities like cleaning. They also excluded more debatable activities like self-care, grooming, playing with children, shopping, and family caretaking from the "free time" category.
The results showed that on average, Americans have about five hours of free time each day. More specifically, the results showed that even after adjusting for different age, gender, and racial groups, no group had less than 4.5 hours of free time per day. The results also revealed that men have more free time than women—about 30 minutes more each day.
How Americans are spending their free time.
Now that we know how much free time we have on average, how are we spending it?
The results showed that unfortunately, we're much more likely to spend our free time in front of a screen than on the tennis court or at the gym. In fact, no group spent more than 7% of their free time on physical activities—with men spending about 6.6% of their free time exercising and women spending about 5% of their free time on physical activity on average.
Knowing this is a good wake-up call for many of us, especially if we're convinced we don't have much time to spend on exercise. As physician researcher and co-author of the study Deborah Cohen, M.D., MPH, explained it, "There is a general perception among the public and even public health professionals that a lack of leisure time is a major reason that Americans do not get enough physical activity." But the truth is, they "found no evidence for those beliefs," she continued.
According to the CDC, only about 23% of Americans get enough exercise. And it's hurting our health in myriad ways. The health benefits of physical activity are practically endless; it can improve our mood, prevent cardiovascular disease, boost libido, and support cognitive function—just to name a few.
The authors hope that this study will increase public awareness of how people are using their time and "encourage Americans to reduce their screen time [to] help people to become more physically active." Even if we don't have hours upon hours of free time each day, "these findings suggest getting Americans to devote at least 20 or 30 minutes each day to physical activity is feasible," says Cohen.
So what's the take-home? If you're having trouble prioritizing exercise, keep track of how much free time you have each day and exactly how you're spending it. Even if you can make time for a 12-minute at-home HIIT workout or manage to create your own 30-minute yoga practice, you'll be benefiting your health in more ways than one.
By this point, you’re probably down with the idea that you’ve gotta invest in yourself for a solid workout. You’ve got the clothes that wick, you’ve even splurged for a Theragun for post-fitness recovery, and you pushed past your comfort zone to incorporate yoga into your weekly routine. But you probably haven’t thought much about how to maximize one of your most basic functions: breathing.
It’s sort of crazy how something that is so second-nature to us during the rest of our waking hours becomes an actual hassle the second we start moving at a clip.
“In everything we do, from reaching for a glass of water to running a marathon, the delivery of oxygen to our system is of vital importance—literally,” says Justin Sweeney, PT, DPT, at Bespoke Treatments in Seattle. “But if you’re doing it wrong, improper breathing patterns could lead to decreased endurance, decreased load and volume output, lightheadedness, and even fainting and decreased spinal stability.” Even if you don’t have a respiratory condition (one in 13 people suffers from asthma, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention), you should still be thinking about your breathing: How you’re inhaling and exhaling air is just as important as the fact that you’re making time for exercise in the first place. We connected with experts to find out how we can make the most of our breathing during our workouts, and how we can correct for less-than-ideal air quality.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to breathe:
First, let’s touch on why breathing feels hard when you’re working out. The moment you start to channel your inner LeBron James (see also: Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps), there’s an increased demand on your muscles. Because of the extra effort you’re putting in, your body requires more oxygen and produces more carbon dioxide, according to the journal Breathe. When you go from resting to exercising, your breathing has to increase from about 15 breaths a minute (an estimated 12 liters of air) to about 40 to 60 times a minute (an additional 88 liters of air).
The best thing you can do is find a rhythm, says Amanda Joplin, ATC. Your goal: Use diaphragmatic breathing, or breathing that comes from the bottom of the chest cavity. “By breathing this way, you’ll see increased blood flow, improved relaxation, increased fat burning, decreased stress, and decreased risk of strains and cramps,” she adds.
To practice diaphragmatic breathing, Sweeney suggests, place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. Then watch the rise and fall of both hands. Try to breathe so that only the hand over your stomach moves. When you’re exercising, Joplin also suggests matching your breathing pattern to your activity. When you’re running, for instance, try inhaling on the first right step and exhaling on the second right step. During weightlifting, exhale on exertion and inhale on the relaxation. If it feels overwhelming, don’t worry: It gets easier with time. “The more you think about your breathing technique initially, the less you will have to later on, as the patterning becomes integrated in your movement,” adds Sweeney. “Optimizing your breathing will help you work longer, harder, and safer so you can keep progressing and pushing your potential.”
What’s happening outside matters, too:
Even when you’ve got the basics on how to breathe, certain factors affect the overall quality of your breaths—whether you’re hitting a workout or simply walking from your car to the grocery store.
Altitude: At high altitudes, the air pressure and oxygen levels are lower. To handle this, the body increases its breathing rate, which means that exercise (already hard) becomes even more difficult. If you are new to training at altitude, your body will take less effective breaths until it acclimatizes, says Joplin. Be patient with yourself. Don’t be a hero, and make sure not to push yourself too early in acclimatization. Hoping to hit a trail run and see the sights at altitude? Consider planning it a few days into your trip.
Outside temperature and humidity: “In temperature extremes, the body can work overtime to make sure the body stays at a normal temperature,” says Joplin. This can lead to abnormally rapid or deep breathing—not exactly ideal when you’re already gasping for air post-sprint or mid–burpee set. Breathing in very dry air can also irritate the throat and respiratory systems. (And an overly humid environment can trigger negative respiratory symptoms in those with asthma, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.) Try adjusting your pace when conditions are making it more difficult to breathe.
Air pollution and allergens: Outdoor air quality can have a major impact on the air that you breathe on the move. Pollutants and allergens come from cars, dust, mold, fire, plants, construction, animals, and factories. Because you’re taking in more air during exercise and are more likely to breathe in deeply, your breaths generally bypass your nasal passages—which typically filter out pollution particles, according to Mayo Clinic. This can increase your risk for everything from irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat to lung cancer. Are you in an iffy pollution area? Aim to get your workouts in early in the morning or at night, post-work. Ozone levels often peak in the afternoon and early evening, and carbon monoxide may be a problem during rush hour in the morning and evening.
So breathe easier, grab your sweat-wicking gear, and get to work.
It’s not just physical exercise but get your whole body, mind and soul buzzing! Swimming is great for so many reasons.
Swimming is an excellent way to boost your endorphins and get your body moving! Because this exercise is easy on the joints and works a wide variety of muscles within your body, it’s a great sport for wide range of people. There are also psychological benefits you get from swimming.
Taking care of your body physically has a lot of positive advantages for your mental well-being. Having a healthy relationship with yourself, much like having a healthy relationship in general, is extremely uplifting and good for your brain! Here are five psychological benefits that you can get from swimming!
Being physically fit can not only add years of healthy living to your life, but also allow you to have lots of extra energy! Once you begin to exercise more frequently by doing laps in the pool, or lake, your body’s metabolism will slowly increase. In addition to having a higher metabolism, the blood in your body will circulate more efficiently.
This means more oxygen in your body, more oxygen to your muscles, and a higher level of energy production throughout your body! This way you can grab your lifejacketpro, jump into the lake, river, pond, ocean, etc. and have more energy to do the fun water and swimming activities you love. Have more energy and feel like you can take on your day!
When it comes to reducing stress, there is no such thing as a cure all! There are as many ways to combat stress as there are things to stress about. Swimming is one way to take on the many stresses of life. Not only do the repetitive motions of swimming relax your mind, but the physical activity itself will help to reduce your stress levels. As high-stress levels can prevent you from thinking clearly, reducing your daily stresses will benefit your mind, work, love life, home life, and so many other things!
Feeling Good About Yourself
Physical activity increases a lot of chemical reactions in your brain and body. One of these is the release of endorphins into your bloodstream. Endorphins are chemicals produced at the base of your brain. They are released during physical activity. They create a feeling of:
Feeling good about yourself is an important factor of having a healthy mindset. Swimming is a way to release endorphins, and therefore, feel good about yourself!
As more and more human beings suffer daily from depression, it’s hard to look the other way when you start to feel down yourself. Simply by adding physical exercise to your daily routine, you can be helping to defeat your own depression!Many, MANY researchers have found that being more active can help to reduce symptoms of depression. Keep swimming to keep winning your fight against this crippling mental illness!
Function, Think, Live Better!
Thinking more clearly and functioning more efficiently mentally are other positive psychological impacts from swimming. Increasing oxygen flow to your muscles and brain allows for you to not only have more energy, but allow your brain to work better! Daily exercises like swimming makes it easy for your brain to react quicker to stimuli. This is great for your work life, your physical activity, as well as your everyday functions!
The Psychological Benefits Swimming Can Provide You!
There are a lot of benefits to swimming beyond keeping yourself in great shape. From increasing oxygen to your brain allowing it to work more efficiently, to giving you more energy, there are so many psychological advantages to getting in the water and swimming!
Source: Thrive Global
Life can be stressful. We’re often going from one deadline to the next, pushing through without taking a break.
But that constant grind can actually be bad for your mental health and your productivity. That’s why it’s so important to unwind, take a total mental vacation from work, and allow yourself to recharge, Dr. David Ballard, a psychologist and the director of the American Psychological Association’s Office of Applied Psychology, told Travel + Leisure.
“Work is such a big part of our identities that anything that butts up against that or challenges it can create problems. We know our satisfaction with our work life can have an effect on our overall life satisfaction,” said Ballard, before adding, “The research suggests you make up in productivity more than the time you take in taking a break or recharging.”
It doesn’t have to be a whirlwind vacation to the historical cities of Europe or an adventure down the Mekong River in Asia, but it does need to include time when you’re not thinking about your job. In fact, Ballard said that those nonstop vacations — when you try to pack in as much as possible — can sometimes leave you more exhausted than you felt before you took the trip.
Rather, Ballard said people should plan “stress recovery experiences” in order to “get back to your normal level of functioning, to get back to your baseline.”
So the next time you’re thinking about taking a much-needed timeout from work, use Ballard’s six tips to take a break that will completely reset you.
Actually take time off
While Ballard said this one seems like a “no brainer,” it needs to be explicitly said. And once you’ve decided to take time off, it’s just as important to establish boundaries for technology and ground rules that you can actually stick with.
“Not only do you need time off when you’re not working, you also need time off when you’re not thinking about work,” he said. “Turn off pop-up notifications and alerts on your mobile devices so your brain isn’t getting sucked back into it.”
Plan a relaxing activity
Ballard said it’s important to plan an activity during your vacation that you know will relax you, like meditation or yoga, taking a walk, or reading a good book.
“And that's different for everyone,” he said. “When you plan [a] vacation, it’s a packed agenda. You come back from trips and feel like you need a vacation from your vacation. It’s important to plan some down time or relaxing activities even if you’ve got a really packed schedule for a vacation.”
Make time for a stimulating non-work related activity
While it’s important to relax, it’s equally as important to engage in an activity that is interesting or challenging to you — and is not work related — Ballard said.
“For stress recovery experiences, it’s actually helpful to be engaged in something else that you find engaging or stimulating,” he said. “If you’re planning a beach vacation and will spend time laying on the beach, find some other activities even [if] it’s just an hour a day … often it’s hobbies or things that have fallen by the wayside.”
Get good quality sleep
While the actual amount of sleep you need can vary from person to person, Ballard said quality uninterrupted sleep is one of the most important things you can do to reset. “That’s one we all know we should do, but were not great at it,” he said.
Think about your re-entry strategy
A great, rejuvenating vacation won’t do anything for your mental health in the long run if you throw it all away the day you get back, Ballard said. Instead, he said to make a plan for when you get back to work — like building in time to comb through emails so that you’re not overwhelmed.
“We want to be able to hang on to those gains as long as we can when we get back,” he said. “Finding a way to make those benefits last as long as possible is important. So what if it’s a perfect vacation if you blow it all away when you get back?”
Seek out extra support if you need it
If you are feeling super stressed out, it may be helpful to seek out the support of an expert to help maximize the benefits of actually taking a break, Ballard said.
“You might problem solve or strategize with them in advance of taking time off to make sure you get the optimal recovery experience,” he said.
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