Time to Spring Clean this Year of Covid
Everyone has coped differently through Covid-19.  

Stress during a crisis can cause fear and anxiety about your health and the health of your loved ones, changes in sleep or eating patterns, and worsening of chronic or mental health conditions. For some, this can increase unhealthy behaviors like the use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs. How you respond to a crisis or difficult time in your life may look different than how others respond. It's important to remember that everyone reacts uniquely to stressful situations, but there are healthy options.

It's officially Spring.  So, it's officially time for "Spring Cleaning"!  Time to get rid of the old and make room for the new.  We typically rid clothing from last season, boxes of “stuff” accumulating in the garage, old birthday cards that are attracting dust, an obsolete technology that is no longer being used.

The same concept can be used for your health because there are toxins building up in your body and compromising many areas of your life. The body has natural healing abilities and numerous mechanisms working hard to help you detoxify and rid the body of harmful substances. However, over time, these systems can become overwhelmed and sluggish.  

After the year we've all had let's take a look at five areas of self-care to clean-up right now to help you manage stress, stay healthy during challenging times, and start fresh this Spring.

  1. Physical Self Care:

    There’s a strong connection between your body and your mind. This means that in order to reduce stress and boost your mental health, you need to take care of your body too. This means eating a nutrient-dense diet and getting adequate movement, amongst other things. Let’s dig a little deeper.

    Are you Breathing:  There is one sure-fire way to stop stress in its tracks, breathing! We tend to breathe shallowly throughout the day, and stress can naturally make that breathing quicker and even more shallow. However, when we take a moment to breathe more deeply, fully utilizing our lung capacity, our entire physiology changes. When you breathe deeply, your brain responds by sending the body a message to calm down and relax. Let’s review a simple breath anyone can master to instantly reduce stress.

    Belly Breathing:
    Diaphragmatic breathing, or belly breathing, can lower your stress levels, reduce your blood pressure, and regulate other important bodily processes. Here’s the basic procedure for diaphragmatic breathing: First, sit or lie in a comfortable position with your shoulders relaxed. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. Inhale through your nose for about two-four seconds. You should experience the air moving through your nostrils into your abdomen, making your stomach expand. During this type of breathing, make sure your stomach is moving outward while your chest remains relatively still. Purse your lips, as if you’re about to blow out a candle, and press gently on your stomach as you exhale slowly for about two-four seconds. Repeat these steps several times for the best results.

    Eat to Reduce Stress:
    When feeling stressed, it's not uncommon to turn to food. Unfortunately, seeking comfort from food can cause negative feelings in the long run. Relief from overeating or overindulging in rich treats will be short-lived, potentially leading to requiring increasingly more to be satisfied. Instead of stress eating, you can eat to reduce stress. Did you know leafy greens contain folate, a vitamin that helps produce the feel-good brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine? Asparagus, broccoli, citrus fruit, Brussels sprouts, and garbanzo beans also contain folate. Salmon, flax, and chia are seeds containing omega-3 fats, which have been shown to combat the stress hormone cortisol. Blueberries contain antioxidants and help produce the stress-fighting chemical dopamine. Add blueberries to your morning oatmeal, which is great for a serotonin boost.

    Prioritize Exercise:
    It's no secret that we all should be active daily. From maintaining mobility and reducing injury to improving mental health, there are countless benefits of physical activity. The physical effects of stress can manifest in a number of different ways, such as headaches, insomnia, anxiety, weight gain, muscle aches and pains, crankiness, and difficulty focusing. While removing all stress from our lives isn't possible, managing stress can help you avoid the negative symptoms. One of the best forms of stress management is exercise. Doing something physical helps get your mind and body out of the fight or flight stress response, so your body feels better. Virtually any form of exercise or movement can increase your fitness level while decreasing your stress. The most important thing is to pick an activity that you enjoy!

    For a mind-body exercise, join me for virtual Yoga!  You'll have free access to my 4 webinars....Yoga 101, Yoga for Aging Gracefully, Yoga for Athletes & Yoga for Pregnancy and even get to try a class right away.  

    For structured activity, try cardio, interval training, or strengthening exercises. Unstructured activities like yard work, washing the car, gardening, and organizing or cleaning your home are also great ways to get moving

    Get Better Sleep:
    Sleep is a crucial aspect of stress management and physical self-care. Adults need anywhere from 7-9 hours each night. Stress can be the cause of troubled sleep. However, the lack of sleep often leads to increased stress levels. To ensure a good night's rest, try creating a bedtime routine to help signal your body, it's time to wind down. Try to go to sleep and wake at the same time each day, even on weekends. Some relaxing activities you may want to try: Stretching Reading Meditating Taking a hot bath Drinking a cup of warm tea Try to avoid using electronics 30 minutes before sleep and resist the urge to scroll through social media or check work emails. Lastly, avoid vigorous activity, large meals, and caffeine close to bedtime.  If you're sleep is really out of wack, you may need my 21 day sleep challenge, now.

  2. Social Health:

    Social health refers to your relationships and the connections you have with the people in your life. Out of necessity, we’ve evolved into social beings. Cooperation with one another enhanced our ability to survive under harsh environmental circumstances. Deep connections to others is a vital aspect of well-being. The best way to cultivate and maintain close relationships is to put time and energy into building your relationships with others. We all have different social needs, meaning this isn’t a set amount of time we require social interaction to benefit. Unfortunately, it's easy to neglect your relationships when life gets busy, and before you know it, stress and loneliness can creep in.

    Stay Connected:  The good news is no matter where in the world your loved ones are located, remaining connected is easier than ever before. Here are some ways to cultivate connections with others right from your home. Text messaging. Sending a quick ‘Hi I’m thinking of you’ is a quick and easy way to share a moment with a loved one. Video chat. There are countless platforms available that allow you to get in some face-time without leaving your home. WeChat, Whatsapp, and Facebook Messenger are great apps for some free face to face conversations. Group chats. Get together with the whole family virtually with video conferencing. Skype, Zoom, and Google Meet are tools for multi-user interactions. Write a letter. This old-fashioned method of communication can be a fun way to interact. Ask the sender to write back! Share an experience. Pick a book, TV show, or activity you and a loved one both enjoy and set a date to discuss your experiences.

    Communication:  Communication is a key aspect of staying connected. When we’re feeling stressed, anger and frustration can take over quickly. This can have a negative effect on your communication skills. Sharing your feelings of stress with others can help relieve stress. Listening to others discuss their stress can also help you feel less alone. Allowing yourself to open up and be vulnerable to loved ones is a restorative form of self-care. Here are some tips to help: - Value yourself and your options. - Know your needs and wants. - Express negative thoughts in a positive way. - Receive feedback positively. - Listen when others are speaking.

  3. Mental Self Care:

    Our thoughts and the way we think about ourselves greatly influence your psychological well-being. Mental self-care involves doing things that help you stay mentally healthy. Practicing self-compassion and acceptance, for example, helps you maintain a healthier inner dialogue. There are many techniques you can use to reduce stress while practicing mental self-care.

    Shifting Your Perspective:
    One thing that can significantly impact your stress level is your attitude. Pessimists, perfectionists, and those with 'type A' personalities, for example, may have a tendency to self-sabotage with negative thought and behavior patterns. Try taking a more positive outlook. If you look hard enough, there is always some good to be found in any situation. The hard-to-face moments in life often provide teachable moments. It’s up to you to figure out what lesson is to be learned. Rather than focusing on the negative things happening around you, search for the positives.

    Imagine Your Stress Away:
    Another useful technique for banishing stress involves imagining that your stress is gone! Affirmations, guided imagery, and visualizations are great for helping you manage your stress. Here are some tips for incorporating affirmations into your life. Keep them positive. Repeat your affirmations frequently. Post them around your home and workspace for visual reminders. Some affirmations you can try: I deserve a peaceful and loving life. I am centered and quiet. Calmness washes over me with every deep breath I take. My thoughts are calming down. Challenges bring opportunities. Here’s a short guided meditation to help you let go of stress: https://youtu.be/Fpiw2hH-dlc  

    Take Breaks:  
    In today's society, we're continually bombarded with information, and that information overload can cause stress and tension. From written media to television, radio broadcasts, and social media, it can be hard to escape. When something that is out of your control is the cause of your stress, a national tragedy, a big news story, etc. you have the option to unplug. Take time to turn off your notifications, silence your phone, and focus on something you enjoy without interruptions for the latest breaking news.

  4. Spiritual Self Care:

    Those who participate in spiritual self-care activities have been found to live healthier lifestyles. Nurturing your spirit, however, doesn't have to involve religion. It can involve anything that helps you develop a deeper sense of meaning, understanding, or connection with the universe. Spirituality has different meanings for different people, often influenced by the ideologies you grew up with. A spiritual self-care practice is any ritual that connects you to your true self, the real you. Are you engaging in spiritual practices that you find fulfilling?

    Benefits of Spiritual Self Care:
    Taking time for spiritual self-care encourages introspection and offers clarity and comfort. Introspection helps you remove yourself from external stressors and instead focus on what’s going on internally. Spiritual self-care can help you to: - Improve relationships and connections with others - Experience more inner peace - Gain clarity on what makes you happy - Enhance feelings of oneness and universality - Diminish feelings of isolation and loneliness - Deepen the relationship with self These are all crucial long-term stress-relief strategies that will help you manage future stress.

    Spiritual Self Care Activities:
    There are many ways you can connect with yourself and your spirit. Whether you enjoy meditation, attending a religious service, or praying, spiritual self-care is important. Here are some ways to help you deepen your spiritual self-care.

    ~Yoga - The goal of yoga is to harmonize your body, mind, and spirit. The practice is individualized according to your needs. Yoga encourages non-judgment and acceptance about where you are in life with the knowledge that you are building a strong foundation for a more empowering life.  Join me for Virtual Yoga....private or small group at your home or desk.

    ~Meditation is one of the easiest, most accessible spiritual practices to maintain. The practice of meditation can reduce stress and create a clearer connection to who you are and what you want out of life. If you haven't yet added Meditation to your life, you'll need to join my Meditation Challenge!

    ~Being in Nature  has an incredible way of healing. Take time each day to immerse yourself in the sound of birds or water, the sight of trees swaying in the wind, etc. You can’t help but disconnect when you are in the moment, and there is a sense of experiencing something greater than yourself.

  5. Emotional Self Care:

    Our emotions are essential indicators of how we’re feeling, but it’s important to remember our emotions are not who we are. Emotions change from moment to moment, depending on our thoughts, actions, environment, and even the food we eat. It's important to have healthy coping skills to deal with uncomfortable emotions, like anger, anxiety, and sadness. Do you have healthy ways to process your emotions?

    Life is too short and valuable to remain stuck in patterns that don’t serve you. When you are unable to forgive someone, it holds you back from fully experiencing life. Energy used to maintain a grudge can cause a continual release of stress hormones. Forgiveness isn’t about ‘letting someone off-the-hook.’ It’s a gift you give to yourself to allow the release of negative emotions. Here is a short video about forgiveness: https://youtu.be/d-K5btaxEFY Don't forget to forgive the most important person, YOU.

    Gratitude is the quality of being thankful. Gratitude is also a healing and supportive emotion. When you’re struggling with stress, the practice of gratitude can help you. A gratitude practice begins with paying attention. Take notice of all the good things in your life. We can quickly become consumed by negativity and forget good and bad exist in unison. A great way to help you organize your thoughts, accept experiences, and put them into context is to journal. By writing, you can magnify and expand on the sources of goodness in your life, and think about what resources you’ve gained from your experiences, even bad ones. To take your gratitude even further, express it to others. Many people in your life have helped you in one way or another. Thanking them completes the feeling of connection. Each November I lead a 21 day Gratitude Challenge.  If you've not yet added Gratitude to your life, make sure to join me here.

As mentioned above, Spring Cleaning is a great annual healthy living practice to Eliminate Toxins!  Failure to eliminate toxins ultimately results in many of the following:

- Weight gain -
- Lack of energy -
- Poor skin -
- Foggy mind -
- Mood swings -
- Allergies -
- Flu-like symptoms -
 - Unhealthy urges -

Most medical practitioners are going to give you antibiotics to help with any of the above conditions which in turn adds even more harmful toxins to your body and the side-effects are not pleasant.  Fortunately, you can help your body detox through a cleanse, which can aid the digestive process by reducing bloating and constipation, improve mental and emotional health, and boost energy levels.

You will finally melt away your excess weight, gain sustained energy, have your skin begin to glow and radiate, and even maintain a positive outlook on life simply because you made the decision to - get rid of the old and make room for the new!  

Join me for my Spring Cleaning 21 Day Elimination Challenge! 3 weeks of Yoga and 21 Days of Eliminating the areas we covered above that no longer serve you.  

The following references have been referred to in the making of this post:
Physical self-care Breathing techniques: https://www.verywellhealth.com/how-to-breathe-with-your-belly-89853
Positive thinking: https://www.verywellmind.com/increase-positivity-ratio-4108168
Affirmations: https://www.thinkup.me/stress-relief-affirmations/
Stress fighting foods: https://www.verywellmind.com/foods-that-help-fight-stress-4111678
Exercise and stress: https://www.verywellfit.com/exercise-and-stress-relief-1231199
Social self-care The importance of social life: https://outist.co/blog/why-do-we-need-social-interaction/
Effective communication: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/relationships-communication/effective-communication.htm Mental self-care https://projecthelping.org/self care-2/
Spiritual self-care https://www.verywellmind.com/how-spirituality-can-benefit-mental-and-physical-health-3144807 Emotional self-care https://www.habitsforwellbeing.com/
22-ways-practice-emotional-self care-letting-go/
Forgiveness: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/learning-forgiveness-_b_3728468
Gratitude: http://ei.yale.edu/what-is-gratitude/  

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