Be kind, please unwind! Managing stress during and after the 21DSD
Hey Folks! We're excited to welcome back Certified 21DSD Coach Rebekah Reddy. Rebekah's article is part of a series contributed by our Certified 21DSD Coaches. Enjoy! – Diane and Team
I know I don’t have to tell you this, but life is stressful!
As Americans in a modern world, we experience many types of stress: the societal stress of a fast-paced life, the physical stress of environmental toxins, the emotional stress of challenging relationships and others’ expectations of us, and the stress that we put on ourselves to be, look, and do better than those around us. We believe that we can and should do it all, and instead of taking a time-out to relax and unwind, we push harder by exercising more, sleeping less, and relying on caffeine and sugar to get us through the day. Just the thought of it all makes my heart race and my muscles tighten!
All of this stress is wearing us out! High stakes deadlines, overly busy schedules, insufficient sleep, inadequate nutrition: all this pressure, pressure, pressure is impacting our health and happiness, and it’s a very significant piece of the puzzle when we are looking at creating healthful, happy lives.
While many of the stressors in our lives are out of our control, many of them can be adjusted, eliminated, or rethought so that they are no longer contributing to this overwhelming sense of pressure. And when the circumstances of our lives cannot be changed (at least in the short term), we can take some steps to be kinder to ourselves and unwind.
What does this have to do with a 21-Day Sugar Detox?
Sugar is a stressor on our bodies and our minds; it requires additional effort from the liver and pancreas to detoxify and maintain blood sugar balance, it messes with our brain function and impairs our sleep. Doing a 21DSD is a step in the right direction, but if we continue to lead stressful lives, even while eliminating sugar from our diets, we are missing a vital component for optimal health.
Also, the reality is that for some people, doing a 21DSD can be kind of stressful—it involves more time planning and prepping meals, more effort thinking about labels and avoiding “no” foods, and even more stress dealing with the various detox symptoms. Don’t get me wrong, the 21DSD is worth every ounce of time, effort, and yes, even stress, but it is also a perfect time to step back a bit and look at ALL areas of your life, not just the food. You are removing dietary stressors, but if all else remains the same, you are not truly revolutionizing your health, which is what this is all about.
So what I’m proposing is that you take some time to consider how you can be kind to yourself, kind to your body, and kind to those around you by unwinding.
When you learn to manage the stress in your life, when you mindfully unwind, you will achieve clarity and be able to sort through life’s messiness to choose what is really important and eliminate the rest. Unwind, relax, and take life one moment at a time.
As Gretchen Rubin writes, “I’m unique, just like everyone else.” When thinking about what activities or strategies are best for managing stress, consider which will be best for YOU. Just because meditation works for some people, that doesn’t mean that it will (or even that it should) work for you—and that’s okay. On a similar note, don’t dismiss a strategy outright—give it a try because you may be surprised what does work for you. I’ve included a number of ideas to help you unwind, relax, and take a moment each day to reevaluate the stressful points of your life. Sometimes all we need is a break in the madness to be able to carry on.
Prioritize “me” time
- Engage in an activity you really love (a sport, a craft, a hobby). Carving out time each day (or at least each week) to do what you love helps put the stressful times in perspective.
- Get a massage (or ask a friend or family member to give you one). Massage feels good, stimulates the blood and lymph, and relieves muscle tightness, all of which are relaxing and can help relieve stress.
- Get a mani/pedi. Whether you go to a salon or do it yourself, painting your nails can be a relaxing way to add a bit of happiness and color to your life.
- Take a bath. Let Calgon (or some Epsom salts) take you away, preferably in a quiet, peaceful room.
- Read something uplifting, enjoyable, funny, and/or fluffy. “Fluff” is what I call books or magazines that are easy to read with simple, lighthearted storylines as opposed to more challenging reads. A few minutes of something that will make you feel relaxed and help you escape for a bit is remarkably helpful. Build some reading time into your daily routine.
- Watch a video of puppies (or babies, or kittens, or monkeys…you get the picture). Smiling, laughing, and feeling those “awwww” moments can really relax you. Just don’t get sucked down the rabbit-hole—if the distraction keeps you from doing what you need to do, set a limit and stick to it.
Get up and move
- Take a walk. Fresh air and sunshine are great for clearing the mind and invigorating the body. Just a 10-minute walk may be enough to reset your mindset and allow you to tackle a difficult task. Can't get outside? Take a lap around the office, go up and down the stairs, or do some light stretches at your desk.
- Dance it out. Your favorite music + nobody watching = therapeutic stress-relieving magic. Try it!
- Engage in yoga, tai chi, or qi gong. All of these practices combine meditation with physical movement, both of which help manage stress.
Practice meditation or relaxation techniques
- Meditate. Start with just 5 minutes a day, seated in a comfortable position in a quiet room. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing or a single word. Set a timer or use an app.
- Color! You’ve seen all the adult coloring books out there, right? Pick one up with some colored pencils or pens and get coloring. Studies show that mandala patterns are best for inducing a light meditative state, which is relaxing and helpful with managing stress, but any coloring book you like is great.
- Play soothing music while doing another activity. I like the Soundscapes channel from my cable provider, but you can find similar music on Pandora or YouTube.
- Practice deep breathing. I like the 4-7-8 breathing technique, which is used for falling asleep easily, but I find that if I am feeling anxious or stressed, it helps me calm down. There are lots of other breathing techniques (just Google it), or simply close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
- Lie on the floor. Find a quiet space, lie down, and breath deeply. If you can, put your legs up so that they are above your heart, which improves circulation. Some simple floor stretches will also help loosen the body and relax the muscles.
- Use Emotional Freedom Technique (tapping). This alternative technique is a powerful tool for utilizing the body’s energy meridian points to relieve chronic pain, anxiety, stress, and physical diseases. If you've never tried it, give it a go–you might be surprised at how effective this simple method is!
- Let it go. I know this is easier said than done, but sometimes you just have to let things go. The rude comment from a coworker. The angry glance from a driver who cut you off on the road. The never-ending pile of dirty (or clean) clothes on your floor. The constant interruptions from your kids. The errands that need to get done, but could wait until the weekend. The list can go on and on, but you can choose what to hold on to and what to let pass. Some things really can wait, so let them go for now and focus on taking care of yourself. Some things are difficult, troubling, or annoying, but you don't have to keep revisiting them and allowing them to add to your stress. Let it go.
- Have a cup of herbal tea. Traditional Medicinals and Yogi Tea have several relaxation teas that taste great and really do help the body relax.
- Supplement with some magnesium. Magnesium is known for promoting relaxation. I like to take some Natural Calm before bed to help me wind down and relax, but you can take it any time of day. You can also take an Epsom salt bath to get some magnesium through the skin. If you prefer a pill supplement, choose magnesium malate or magnesium glycinate–those are more bioavailable than other forms.
- Use aromatherapy. Many essential oils, especially lavender and frankincense, have a calming effect when applied topically or diffused. Always follow safety protocols when using oils (find more information here).
- Get some physical touch. Hug, hold hands, or snuggle up with someone you love. Non-sexual physical touch is foundational to being human (we need it to thrive), and it fosters trust, safety, and overall feelings of wellbeing. No humans available? Spend some time with a fur baby (yours or someone else's)–petting a dog or cat is soothing and relieves stress.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but no matter what you choose to do to manage stress, it is so very important that you take time each day to be kind to yourself and unwind. Your health and happiness depend on it!
Rebekah Reddy has been a stay-at-home mom to her three children (two girls, one boy) since 2006, but in her former life she was a high school English/ESL teacher. She holds a BA in English with a minor in Spanish, an MA in English with an emphasis in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), and a California teaching credential. She is also a certified Nutrition Educator, 21DSD Certified Coach, and the author of the blog Half Indian Cook through which she shares recipes and writes about food and culture in her mixed-ethnicity family.
Rebekah specializes in adapting Indian and other ethnic cuisines to be Paleo or 21DSD-friendly as well as working with pregnant or breastfeeding women, busy families, and children. Rebekah’s passion for delicious, nutritious food has led her entire family to improved health and she hopes to support you in whatever health-related changes you wish to make.
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