These are the lazy days of summer, or are they? Vacation planning, kid’s activities, work deadlines, appointments, meetings and more can easily fill our days. The work must go on whether you’re managing a corporation or a family.
Even the good activities can bring on the stress, and our body’s response is the same whether it’s positive or negative stress we’re feeling. Our resilience will determine how quickly we can move back into rest mode after the stress puts a spike in our cortisol levels. When we experience that adrenaline rush (which can even be addicting) our body moves into flight mode and produces hundreds of stress hormones, the primary one being cortisol. Over time, elevated cortisol will wear out the body in the form of disease: adrenal fatigue, chronic inflammation, lowered immunity, inefficient metabolism and more. While we are one of the most educated societies, we are also one of the most stressed out, and it’s showing up in our population at alarming rates. The top medications prescribed for patients are for illness that can be exacerbated by high stress levels: heart disease, digestive ailments, diabetes, infections and insomnia to name a few.
Are you traveling for the summer? Taking a holiday or weekends off to recharge? Or are you working through the season and consider that reading articles about relaxation count as your R & R? This was a little how I was last summer as I was finishing the publication of my first print book Two Inches Of Wool, The Simple Art of Self-Care. The irony was that I was as far away from caring for myself during that season as I could get. The process took much longer, I often spent 8+ hours a day sitting at my computer that wrenched my posture to a point that no amount of yoga would unravel it until after my book was complete. I was frustrated at the time it was taking, not cooking and eating my usual healthy fare and my mind was in high-drive every waking hour.
I’ve moved past that season and gotten back on track as I re-prioritized my routines to prepare for work loads that will arise like that again. I’m working on another book, but this time my schedule will be different. This will be more of a marathon than a sprint. Number one, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of building margin into my days for re-charging whether I’m writing a book or managing my family and clients. I’m writing less on my blog and putting more into my manuscript and in person trainings which all take time. Procrastination of “self-care” is not an option any more.
Number two, I have a team of practitioners that I personally refer to year-round for my own self-care. As a wellness professional, I get the privilege of being surrounded by some amazing people who care for others as I do. We also need to care for ourselves so that we are better servants of our clients. I also work with the corporate world and know the demands and stresses that come along with high profile jobs, managing families and keeping healthy relationships in tact. The past few weeks I’ve been collecting notes from some of those individuals who I admire for their ability to live out a decent work-life balance. Whenever I interact with them, our conversations are upbeat and positive even if we’re discussing difficult things. I believe this is a hallmark of a healthy individual: harmony with the inner and outer person, a continuity in the spirit that only comes from tending the interior (mind), exterior (body) and soul (spirit). If any of these are mis-aligned or not fed, the other areas will suffer eventually. These individuals are living out “let food be thy medicine” and “treat your body is a temple” principles. I hope you’re inspired by what they do to and try something new this summer to care for yourself.
Ronda Arndorfer is a Founder with Amare, Owner of the Movement Center, Holistic Wellness Entrepreneur with a Gut & Brain focus and Pilates instructor.
As I travel so much between two homes in Milwaukee and Reno I need to take care of myself especially when on the go. No matter what my schedule is, I keep myself balanced with my pilates and healthy eating in supporting my gut-brain axis. One of my favorite healthy choices would be a black-bean burger vs beef and I always looking at creative ways to get more veggies in my diet. I also carry my own food on the plane in a small cooler tote. I pack my bag before bed with a mini ice pack when I’ve got an early flight and can just grab it and go on the way to the airport in the morning. I’ll usually have hummus, veggies such as steamed cauliflower & broccoli and some protein like a hard boiled egg. Eating well not only feeds my brain, it definitely helps me sleep better when I’m crossing several timelines.
Kimara Ellefson is a dedicated wife, niece, and aunt to 10 nieces and nephews. She is in leadership at a local healthcare organization, a teacher at her church, a speaker and avid reader. Her life motto is “Choose Adventure” where she challenges herself to move from fear to a place of courage. She is growing every day in to who she was created to be-one small step at a time.
There are seasons of life where it seems trials, obligations or demands on our time and energy are never-ending and overwhelming. Other times, it is the monotonous of the ordinary that can drag us down or cause unrest in our mind and soul. I am a driver-high intensity type person by nature which contributes to both successes in life as well as much unrest in my body and soul if I am not diligent and dedicated to self-care. I have learned that I need to be as disciplined and dedicated to taking care of my soul as I am to all the other things that require my attention-and that soul care must take priority. I have a ROUTINE of self-care. Simple, daily habits that take priority in my life over all others. And I am dogged about holding to this routine in spite of chaos around me. The amount of time I can dedicate may vary, but I don’t let it go completely. In fact, it is during high intensity times that I often fight even harder for my routine. My emotions will often try to convince me to let it go. However, it is during these moments that I need a routine of self-care most. My routine includes starting my day with meditation, which for me comes from Scripture, and some form of exercise or movement. This is as much care for my mind as it is my physical body. Throughout the day, I have a mantra I use when I feel myself starting to become unglued. I take a depth breath (or 4 or 5!) and as I breath in and out I say “Stop. Proceed with Kindness”. This helps me to shift the focus from myself and my sense of overwhelm or frustration with those around me and get my focus back to the type of person I want to be and how I want to show up in the world. Lastly, I allow something in the evening that fills my soul. This might be a walk in nature, a few moments sitting outside enjoying fresh air, and/or a great work of fiction. This allows me both refreshment and a few moments of escape. Prioritizing my routine; taking care of myself, provides me with the strength I need to show up and thrive each day I am given.
Catia Morna Figueiredo is the Director and Program Development Specialist at Ascent Wellness Program. She has a background in Psychology and completed her Master’s Degree at the University of Coimbra, Portugal. She was a research assistant for many years and has a deep interest in social sciences and social justice. Catia believes that scientific fields and fields of knowledge should interface creatively, so she wrote her Master’s Thesis on Epicureanism, and how the teachings of Epicurus are now being revived by Positive Psychology’s research findings. Her passion is to translate science into community programming. She moved to the US 8 years ago to further her education and got her 200 hour yoga certification in the Unites States. This in-depth training, added to studies in theatre and Gestalt Psychology made her realize how the body is taken out of most mental health services. This deeply informed the creation of the Ascent Wellness Program: a movement clinic that includes movement practices in every healing journey. She is currently getting her certification as an Ayurvedic and Yoga counselor through the American Institute of Vedic Studies. Catia believes that her experience as a research assistant in two countries and her ongoing collaboration with the universities from three countries inform her about best practices in community programming. Favorite quote: “A free life cannot acquire many possessions, because this is not easy to do without servility to mobs or monarchs.” Epicurus
Managing energy levels and levels of tension is hard when you have a job that relies very much on creativity, responding in the moment, supporting professionals and still needing alone time (for research, program development and quality assessment). It’s hard to connect to oneself when using many hats, as one becomes the hats too easily. This way, I count deeply on positive emotions to nourish myself. As an introvert, I derive joy from reading, drawing, sculpting and …well, dancing (music). All of these things happen at home alone, as I can expand my mind, explore the way I move, the music that I love and art in a way that meets my introvert personality needs. I try to create space to connect to things that create a flow experience for me. This makes time stop still and reminds me of my inner resources. The experience of awe broadens my mind and restores my faith. I would say my biggest spiritual practice is to seek to be in awe more often: through observing nature, learning about humans great (little or big) victories, studying constellations and anything about the world out there. Here are some of my favorite links for building self-awareness and finding your work-life balance:
Ascent Wellness Program Facebook Page:
Jamie Howard is the CCO of COR Wellness LLC and is an accomplished executive in the sales and marketing arena with a career spanning over 25 years in the corporate environment focusing on coaching, training and developing sales teams as well as developing business strategies to drive Business Performance, Employee Health and Safety and Employee Engagement Initiatives. Jamie’ strategic approach is to understand a client and their business challenges and develop solutions to achieve their business objectives. He has served as an advisory board member of the Illinois State University Professional Sales Institute and a consultant to several sales and marketing programs within University including the Agency Leadership Program, the New Producers Development Program, and the Professional Insurance Sales Association certification and professional designation program. Jamie resides in the western Suburbs of Chicago with his wife and three children and has a passion for outdoor activities such as fishing, boating and snow skiing. During the winter he works at a local ski hill as a ski instructor and has coached football and baseball over the past 10 years. While attending Illinois State Jamie spent three years on the ISU Men’s Volleyball Team. Stress is evident in everything I do. I’m traveling 3-4 days a week running a company and have a lot of demands on my personal and professional life. As stress starts to take a toll on my body I can always relate the recovery back to 2 things: Diet and Exercise.
When I am starting to feel fatigued the first thing I do is analyze my diet and adapt accordingly. It is always easy to grab quick foods that may give you a quick boost but impacts energy long term. I will start to focus on healthy snacks, packing lunches and always drinking more water. While it may take a few more minutes in the morning it pays off at the end of the day when I have more energy to spend time with my family.
I have always been an avid outdoors person so the second way to combat a stressful lifestyle is to spend as much time outside the house as possible. I am always on the go 7 days a week so when I can incorporate fun activities like sports, fishing, boating or skiing it helps to keep me active and more focused in business. I make it a priority to schedule a planned 30 minute workout at least 3-4 times a week to jump start the day.
Stress will always be part of your life. Identify your stressors, learn what helps you manage it and commit to consistently make that part of your life.
Andrea Killinger is the International Project Manager of Advertising with Audi and travels worldwide as she carries out her work.
Many Europeans value leisure time and often work less than their American counterparts. Strategic time spent away from work can actually make office time more efficient and effective. Andrea is a true example of this. I prioritize time with friends, playing badminton or just sitting outside enjoying the last bit of sun in the day. I also really enjoy taking a swim, whenever I’m outside in the water it frees up my mind and makes me happy.
Dr. Rose Kumar is an M.D., CEO and Medical Director of the Ommani Center and author of Becoming Real: Reclaiming Your Health in Midlife.
Dr. Rose recommends self-care as the best antidote for elevations in cortisol. Chronic elevations in cortisol are toxic for the body. They cause a series of conditions including increased stomach acid production, immune suppression, fatigue, hypertension, weight gain, abdominal fat, memory loss, thinning of skin, elevated cholesterol and sleep disturbance.
I recommend massage, reiki and acupuncture as stress relieving modalities. I eat a plant-based diet, exercise regularly and include high antioxidant foods in my diet: Maca, Ashwaganda, Mesquite, Amla and Lacuma are some key ones. Mindfulness meditation and yoga is also helpful as is pranayama and abdominal breathing.
Amy Loomis is an RN who turned into a whole foods advocate. She is a natural health consultant and helps families get back to the basics in nutrition, pantry makeovers and assistance in meal planning at Amy Loomis Wellness Solutions
The way I love to de-stress and lower cortisol starts with what I eat and drink in the morning. I love waking up early and drinking a lemon water tonic, eating something light but nourishing, making sure to get my quiet prayer time in, and then integrating a walk or run in some part of my day. Whenever I’m outside walking or running, I purposely clear my mind, take in the beauty God created around me, and take deep cleansing breaths to help relax my spirit. I have a much better and relaxing day whenever I implement this routine!
Exercise is my best stress reliever. My husband and I try to walk a 3.5 mile loop most evenings and a cardio workout at the gym 2 to 3 times a week really leaves me feeling refreshed. This routine along with plenty of water and a diet full of fresh vegetables and fruit keep my aging body and mind happy and help me to sleep sound so I can wake up ready to go.
Jeff Ziebelman is an entrepreneur and has owned several businesses. His most recent endeavor is into healthy eats with Zymbiotics which he started three and a half years ago and is now distributed into hundreds of retail stores in seven states. Zymbiotics, a Milwaukee-based company, produces naturally fermented sauerkraut, ginger carrots, beets and kimchi. The growth of the company has mostly been driven by the quality of Zymbiotics products and their health benefits.
I personally start every day with 30-60 minutes of yoga, 30-60 minutes of aerobic exercise and then meditate for about 15 minutes. I find this best prepares me for my day as a multi-faceted business owner.
For me, I could echo most of the ideas above as they are often options for me. My nonnegotiables each day though are yoga in my home with outdoor views and Biblical meditation, prayer and journaling for my mind and spirit.
Most days I begin with yoga to wake my physical body, then continue into a time of reflection and prayer to receive goodness into my soul and set my intentions for the day. Some days I may interject yoga or meditation at different times. For example, if I’m wound up or dealing with some strong energy I may take in 10 minutes of power yoga during the day followed by some simple stretches to calm down. Music plays a huge role in helping me settle down. I may begin matching my wound up energy with some upbeat but grounded music like Co-Pilot by Andy Grammer, a medium paced song like Liminal by Tow’rs or To You by Andy Shauf then transition to some soothing instrumental like Gymnopedia No. 1 as my mind and body relax.
I often teach my clients to learn skills of relaxation and play when your work load is lighter. Practice techniques when you are already less stressed so you’ll be prepared with some tools when your planner gets full.
Do you have a plan of action for when the cortisol begins to rise? These individuals continue to inspire me, what spoke to you?
Take time in the coming weeks to enjoy the summer and integrate some new self-care routines.