The most wonderful (and hectic) time of the year is fast approaching, so I thought I would share what really helps me to stay feeling grounded, balanced and as stress-free as possible with a big focus on maintaining emotional and mental well-being during what can be a challenging time of the year for many people….
We all lead hectic lives, packed with work, family and domestic commitments amongst many others, and I fully understand how difficult it can be to squeeze a bit of time into the day to exercise. Getting myself into the gym or outside to exercise is as much of a struggle sometimes as it is for anyone else. Believe me. There are some days when I feel really revved up and ready to go, but others I feel tired and unmotivated. And almost every day, there’s something ‘more important’ to be done first.
But one of the main sources of comfort, support, stability and feel-good factor, other than my husband, friends and family, of course, has been my exercise routine. Being self-employed and working in an industry where plans can change literally at the last minute, fitness has been a constant and reliable friend to me, always guaranteed to energise my body and brighten my mood. I love keeping active and fit for the boost of confidence it gives me, as well as the mental clarity, mood lift and obvious health benefits. It also helps to improve my sleep once I don’t exercise too late into the evening.
To stay feeling fit, strong and flexible, I do a combination of weight training with trainer Jessica Kavanagh, Pilates at Pilates Plus Dublin and cardio on the cross-trainer or treadmill and I always aim to work out six days a week.
As one of the most important of your physiological functions, sleep is of the highest value to your health, fitness and emotional wellbeing. Adults need at least 7-8 hours of snooze time per night, but many of us fall short of that and various chemicals and compounds found in foods and drinks can also have a powerful effect on your sleeping patterns.
You need sleep to help regulate your appetite hormones, with studies showing that not getting sufficient shut-eye may increase your daily calorie intake by up to 20% and this may cause weight gain in the long term. I definitely find that I crave sweet and stodgy foods when I don’t get enough sleep, and I aim for at least seven hours a night. I also try to avoid tea and coffee from lunchtime onwards and get my workouts done in the morning so that sleep time isn’t affected.
I believe that good nutrition is crucial to health, fitness and mental well-being. I focus on eating fresh, whole, plant-based foods and I’ve planned my diet well so that I know I’m getting everything I need to support a busy and active lifestyle.
So many of us are chronically stressed out that we have become to see it as normal. But long-term stress can be detrimental to your overall health, weight, fitness levels, emotional health and sleep patterns.
I find that taking time out each day to exercise and simply relax can really help to lower stress levels. But everybody is different and what matters is finding the time to regularly relax and unwind. Spending time with friends and family, meditation, yoga, running, watching a movie, having a bath, going for a massage, cuddling your pet and reducing your caffeine intake can all help to lower those cortisol levels to help you look and feel your best.
Alcohol in Moderation
With so many social gatherings, Christmas parties and meals cropping up at this time of year, I think it’s important to view alcohol as a treat to enjoy in moderation for a multitude of reasons. I find that it causes me to feel bloated and low in energy, motivation and mental clarity for a few days if I overdo it, so I definitely treat it with respect. Drinking water alongside alcoholic drinks really helps too.
Positive Mental Attitude:
Just like your physical fitness, a positive mental attitude takes ongoing work and attention to stay healthy. Working hard to remain full of positivity and optimism throughout your life is so important and there is an ever-increasing body of scientific evidence that your regular thoughts, emotions and self-image very much contribute to your health and quality of life.
Of course, you can’t control much of what life throws at you and all of us will face our own challenges, but what you can control is how you respond to these challenges and your ongoing attitude. I find that meditation, deep breathing and remembering to be grateful for all that makes you happy in life can really help to encourage a calm, positive mindset.
I have also discovered that setting positive goals is helpful for creating an optimistic attitude and building your self-confidence. Try to word your statement of intent to achieve these goals in positive language, and it can be very much applied to getting healthy and fit: “I love to eat healthy fruit and vegetables and exercise everyday” is a much more positive statement than telling yourself that “I must not eat sugar, junk food or bread and I am not allowed to skip the gym.” Of course you’re going to rebel against that. I know I would!
Balance is Key:
Life is for living to the full, for enjoying fun times with friends and treating yourself every so often. Be kind to yourself, avoid crash diets, eat sensibly as much as possible and never feel guilty for enjoying your life and treating yourself.
For the best quality of life, I believe that it’s important to eat and drink moderately, and to strike a sustainable balance between health, fitness and fun to help you feel your very best. Be good 80% of the time and enjoy yourself for the remaining 20%. It’s not about being perfect all the time. It’s about balance and progress.