The vicious cycle of having no wiggle room in your day, no ‘me-time or ‘free-time’ plus long, daily ‘To Do lists’ creates a mountain of feelings- especially the feeling of overwhelm. In these pandemic times, the most frequently used word people report as their overriding emotion is anxiety! Your mind and body (as you know) are one ecosystem, connected like a pajama onesie. If your mind and emotions are in turmoil your body responds by sending your adrenal glands into ‘overwork mode’ producing masses of cortisol – the stress hormone!
Too much cortisol and too little melatonin, (the sleep hormone) and you may be battling to get to sleep, stay asleep and / or wake up easily and refreshed (without an alarm). Ouch. This is no way to live!
Ruby Wax in her book titled ‘A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled’ speaks about Mindful movement as a coping mechanism for being anxious, ensuring a clear mind. We all want to be a bundle of joy to be around. After all … ‘Emotions are CONTAGIOUS’
This quote from her book sums it up.
‘When I spend my day in the usual Hunchback of Notre Dame, reptilian-rage position, with my shoulders up so high I can wear them as earmuffs, I’m a bitch. How you feel in your body is a physical manifestation of your thoughts, how you relate to your thoughts is how you relate to people, and how you react to people is how you react to the world. To focus into your body is like going on an internal retreat, away from the fascist dictator of your mind.’
In these ever-changing, and turbulent times our critical thinking, and our ability to solve difficult problems ‘creatively ’ is essential. If your body is tight and rigid, your thinking patterns may be the same.
Do you know these facts about your body?
- Research shows that exercise reduces your cortisol levels.
Living our fast paced lives, we may not know that long-term increased cortisol levels are really bad for your body – increasing blood pressure, which may lead to heart disease; type 2 diabetes; osteoporosis, and a number of other chronic diseases. Have you noticed a little more padding (also known as fat) around your belly? Cortisol increases appetite and signals to the body to store fat. On a positive note, breathing deeply when you exercise is not only good for your heart and lungs, but it also reduces your cortisol levels.2. Exercise supports brain health.
If you are feeling mentally frazzled, or have a sense of brain fog, procrastinating and battling to GSD (Get Stuff Done) – this next fact may shift your attitude towards exercise. In your brain there is a ‘structure’ called the hippocampus. This is the part of your brain responsible for learning, consolidating memories, and it helps us to self-regulate, and to self-motivate (GSD) … and it is strengthened by exercise.
- Exercise also reduces tension-related aches and pains.
Our bodies were designed to move, to be flexible and agile. When we lived in the wild, women walked about 12km a day and men about 19km per day. Now we ‘live’ at our desks, in our newly ‘set-up’ home office behind our computers and mobile phones, often ending the day on our couch binge watching Netflix. People are behind screens /digital devices for between 8 and 14 hours per day. Reduce neck and lower back ache by set your phone alarm to go off every hour. This will prompt you to stand up and stretch and try doing 10 (or 50) squats at your desk.These facts give us the Why now for the How? You may have heard that for substantial health benefits, adults need 150 minutes to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity ‘movement’ / exercise per week.
Given that we want to ‘automate’ this, it’s good to settle on 30 mins per day of moderate-intensity movement.
Knowing and Doing can be ‘miles apart’. To ensure that the knowledge of 30 mins per day becomes an easy, non-negotiable daily ‘doing’, you may need a mental biohack. Dr Neumann’s neuroscience book (written many years ago) is wonderfully titled: ‘Change your words to change your world’. Use this as a ‘mental biohack’. Change your self-talk from ‘I know I need to exercise’ to ‘I choose to move / stretch my body every day for 30 mins’. The words ‘choose’ and ‘movement’ will ‘reframe’ the activity in your brain, and you’ll more easily make the leap from ‘knowing’ to ‘doing’. Some of us have a self-belief that ‘exercise’ is difficult, and needs to be a sweaty hour (or it’s not worthwhile), but this is not true. After two or three weeks of 30 mins per day, you may find that your ‘daily movement regime’ becomes ‘automated’. Just like brushing your teeth twice a day.
Change your self-talk to the fact that eating the ‘preverbial elephant’ is doable in three small bite-sized chunks per day. Micro bursts of activity are good for you.
Before bed: it’s as easy as 1,2,3.
- Research, and see which (free) exercise App appeals to you? Use the 10 min option to start. (It may suit your livestyle to do the entire 30 mins in the morning before the family wakes up). Set out a mat, towel and water bottle in the area you have chosen to workout (eg. your lounge or patio area)
- Put your exercise clothes in your bathroom (most of us visit the bathroom, as we wake up).
- Set your alarm 10-12 mins earlier than ‘normal’.
When you visit your bathroom in the morning, get dressed in your exercise clothes immediately. Go to your chosen area and va va voom … simply use your chosen App.
Alternatively, if you are the kind of person who wakes up ‘sparky’, ready to ‘think’, and like your own music … then use a skipping rope for 1 min ; do Jumping Jacks for 1 min; couch dips for 1 min; plank for 30 secs; sit-ups for 30 secs and lunges for 1 min (as examples). Repeat. This will quickly get your heartrate up. Remember to stretch for a min or two before you start.
You may have already been drinking from your water bottle, but after your workout have a another glass of water (with lemon is best). Your brain ‘works’ during the night flushing out toxins as you sleep, and in essence goes from a juicy, fat, green grape to a shrivelled dehydrated raisin. So be sure to have water BEFORE dehydrating caffeine-based tea or coffee in the morning. Your brain will thank you for the rehydrating water/ herbal tea… and reward you with clear thinking during the day.
Before lunch: An easy 10 min ‘micro-bursts’ of activity.
10 mins before lunch repeat your morning routine. Allow your brain to have a ‘breather’. Don’t think… just ‘do’.
Often people ask if the lunchtime movement is necessary, especially if they are a morning jogger or gym- enthusiast. The answer is YES. Sitting is the new smoking. If you sit for longer than two hours at a time – research shows that your good cholesterol drops by up to 40%! Movement helps us stretch our muscles, stimulate blood flow and reduce our lower back and neck pain, that we get from all that time ‘hunched’ over our desks staring at our computers.
Another ‘micro-burst’ of 10 mins before supper gets you to the 30 mins.
There isn’t one ‘right’ way to exercise / introduce movement. Before supper, you may find yourself on the lounge floor, lying on your back with your toddler balancing on your feet – playing ‘areoplanes’. That’s terrific. Find what works for your body and your schedule. Of course a 10-minute walk at the end of the day with a pram /dogs /your spouse, or on your own listening to a ‘brain nourishing podcast’ is another set of great options.
If you’ve skimmed this article , then main point is that your body needs 30 minutes of ‘movement’. This needs to be ‘automated’ and woven seamlessly into your life -seven days/ week If you are ‘time-poor’ – break it up into 3 bite-sized chunks so that your body feels more balanced, and less stressed over time.