Coping With Stress, Starting Today

1.) Reduce Your Intake Of Stimulants. 

Eliminating our most common vices simply isn’t realistic, and especially not all at once. So try starting small. Can you replace your second, or afternoon, cup of coffee with herbal tea? If you need wine or a cocktail to unwind after work each day, pick 1 or 2 weekdays to make a mocktail instead, drink flavored sparkling water (add fruit or herbs!), or even kombucha for a similar placebo effect. Bonus: Keeping yourself better hydrated will enable your body to cope better with stress.

You should also aim to avoid or reduce your consumption of refined sugars – they aren’t only in desserts, they’re in most manufactured foods (even salad dressings and bread), and can cause energy crashes which may lead you to feel tired and irritable. Make sure to check the labels of all processed foods, and try to find an alternate brand, or better yet pick something up from your neighborhood farmer’s market to avoid all the additives!

Katelyn sitting

2.) Get Moving To Burn Off Your Stress.

Stressful situations increase the level of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol in your body. These are the “fight or flight” hormones that are designed to protect us from immediate bodily harm when we are under threat. Physical exercise can be used as a surrogate to metabolize the excessive stress hormones and restore your body and mind to a calmer, more relaxed state.

When you feel stressed and tense, go for a brisk walk in fresh air (check out our previous post about the benefits of walking!).  Try to incorporate some physical activity into your daily routine on a regular basis, either before or after work, or at lunchtime. (Pro tip: make your workouts *non-negotiable* with yourself and your schedule, and pick a consistent class time to attend regularly).  Regular physical activity will also improve the quality of your sleep!

3.) Go To Sleep.

A lack of sleep is a significant cause of stress. Unfortunately though, stress also interrupts our sleep as thoughts keep whirling through our heads, stopping us from relaxing enough to fall asleep (stop thinking about your to-do list at 2 am!!).

Rather than relying on medication, try maximizing your relaxation before going to sleep.  Avoid caffeine during the evening, as well as alcohol if you know that leads to disturbed sleep. Stop doing any mentally demanding work several hours before going to bed so that you give your brain time to calm down. Stop multi-tasking! Quit scrolling stories on your phone with the TV on. Pick one or the other, to help your brain slow down. Try reading a calming book for a few minutes to relax your body, tire your eyes and help you forget about the things that worry you. Aim to go to bed at roughly the same time each day so that your mind and body get used to a predictable bedtime routine.

4. Try A Relaxation Technique.

Meditation isn’t for everyone. But literally anyone can do this, anywhere, even at your desk or in the car. One very simple relaxation technique is to focus on a word or phrase that has a positive meaning to you. Words such as “calm” “love” and “peace” work well, or you could think of one self-affirming mantra such as “I deserve calm in my life” or “Grant me serenity”.  Focus on your chosen word or phrase and return to the chosen word or phrase even when your mind wanders. If you find yourself becoming tense again later, simply silently repeat your word or phrase.

Don’t worry if you find it difficult to relax at first. Relaxation is a skill that needs to be learned and will improve with practice, like anything in life! So make sure to try this technique more than once to get the hang of it.

Journaling Pic

5. Keep A Stress Diary.

Keeping a stress diary for a few weeks is an effective stress management tool, to help you become more aware of the situations which cause you to become stressed.

Note the date, time and place of each stressful episode, and what you were doing, who you were with, and how you felt both physically and emotionally.  Give each stressful episode a stress rating (on, say, a 1-10 scale) and use the diary to understand what triggers your stress and how effective you are in stressful situations.  This will enable you to avoid stressful situations and develop better coping mechanisms.

Not a dear diary type? Just talking to someone about how you feel can be helpful.

Talking can work by either distracting you from your stressful thoughts or releasing some of the built-up tension by discussing it. Stress can cloud your judgement and prevent you from seeing things clearly. Talking things through with a friend, work colleague, or even a trained professional, can help you find solutions to your stress and put your problems into perspective.

6. Take Control: Just Say No.

At times, we all feel overburdened by our ‘To Do’ list, and this is a common cause of stress. Accept that you can not do everything at once. (repeat this out loud three times right now because we are serious, sister!) Start to prioritize, and ultimately organize, your tasks.

Make a list of all the things that you need to do and list them in order of genuine priority, and over a longer timeframe. Remember to create buffer times to deal with unexpected tasks, and most importantly schedule time for YOURSELF, whether that’s exercise, a pedicure, or even a walk or phone call with a friend.

Take some things off your plate! Note what tasks you need to do personally and what can be delegated to others to do. See what you may even be able to completely eliminate, or move a task or two to a ‘when time allows’ bucket with no deadline.

Lastly, just say N-O. A common cause of stress is having too much to do and too little time in which to do it.  And yet most of us will still agree to take on additional responsibility.  Learning to say “No” to additional or unimportant requests will help to reduce your level of stress, and may also help you develop more self-confidence. Think about practicing some pre-prepared phrases to let other people down more gently, so you feel more comfortable saying no more often.

Which tip do you find will be easiest for you to work on today? Any other tips you’ve found personally helpful that aren’t on this list? Let us know!

Warming Up To Burn It Out At The Barre

No matter the workout of choice, it’s important to set your body up for success with a proper pre-exercise warm-up. Experts agree a warm-up should heat and loosen the body, and prepare the mind for action. But there’s also some moves to actually avoid.

BandT_20160611_0135 Green Ball Ab WarmupAlthough most of your barre class is developed to be performed by focusing on a singular muscle group, your warm-up is different. Think of your warm-up as a dynamic approach of getting your joints moving one at a time, then all together, to take the body through progressive movements that loosen and stretch your muscles.

If you are habitually running late to class, perform a quick set of knee lifts with arm presses by your car or in the lobby, or give yourself a goal of 25 jumping jacks. It’s important to wake up and warm-up the joints before you really get moving.

Next up is immediately warming the midsection. Your core actually contracts first in every exercise you do in class. We like to say you’re working your core for 55 minutes in class, not just the final 10! All the energy you exert starts in your midsection, and is then transferred to your limbs, which is why the first exercises performed in our warm-ups are centered around your core.

Follow this up with dynamic stretching exercises that focus on stability and mobility, like push ups and planks. You want to focus on getting your body ‘practicing’ positions you may perform later at a more intense state. (For barre, translate this into proper posture and alignment in each warm-up exercise, so that you’ll be able to perform the same posture and alignment in other sections of class later.) The added focus on strengthening the core with these specific exercises performed in the warm-up first, allows you to perform the other moves in your workout later with more intensity and better attention to form, to get more out of them.

Full Arm Plank float legDynamic stretching is also focused on continual movement to begin to  loosen the muscles, so you can improve your range of motion during your workout (See, you really can sink another inch lower in thighs!)

Lastly, focus on building up your heart rate throughout your warm-up. Getting your heart pumping warms up your muscles, and switches on your nervous system for peak output during class. Just make sure the warm-up doesn’t fatigue you, so listen to your own body’s cues and remember every day is different.

So what not to do? Reserve your static stretching for the cool down (holding a pose for 10 seconds or longer, without movement). This can actually hinder your performance and increase your risk for injury. Research shows static stretching will likely leave you less able to move quickly and on command come workout time, impairing your strength performance.

What’s your favorite dynamic warm-up move? Let us know here, or comment on our social media posts about this warm-up blog post, through your local Neighborhood Barre’s social media handles. You never know when your requested move may make the cut next warm-up!