I recently had the opportunity to have some time off and I had a list of work-related “Things to Do” and a Kick-Butt Attitude in which to accomplish everything. At the beginning of the week I rubbed my hands together in excitement about all the tasks I was going to conquer, and I had a game plan about how I was going to plow my way through each thing.
Then the first day came and went and I didn’t quite get to everything I wanted to. I tried reminding myself of the importance of being flexible, and maybe I needed to start my week of tasks the next day. But the next day was starting out the same way! Whoa. I had to take a step back when I realized that my shoulders were up to my ear lobes all the time and I was carrying around a slight headache.
Stress was building and my joy of time spent doing the things I needed and wanted to do was slowly dwindling. I had to start taking my own advice that I dole out to others and distress. For me that means MOVING because MOVING helps me think differently. Information given by the Mayo Clinic tells us that exercise increases your overall health and your sense of well-being, which puts more pep in your step every day. (I needed some pep in my step for sure).
Exercise also has some direct stress-busting benefits:
1. It pumps up your endorphins: Physical activity helps to bump up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Although this function is often referred to as a runner’s high, a rousing game of tennis or a nature hike also can contribute to this same feeling.
2. It’s meditation in motion: After a fast-paced game of racquetball or several laps in the pool, you’ll often find that you’ve forgotten the day’s irritations and concentrated only on your body’s movements. As you begin to regularly shed your daily tensions through movement and physical activity, you may find that this focus on a single task, and the resulting energy and optimism, can help you remain clam and clear in everything that you do.
3. It improves your mood: Regular exercise can increase self-confidence and lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. Exercise also can improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression and anxiety. All this can east your stress levels and give you a sense of command over your body and your life.
So I started walking. I started going to exercise classes everyday at the gym. I started moving. In spite of a very cloudy and chilly week, I got in front of my stress and gained control. Did I accomplish EVERYTHING that I wanted to? NO, but the time off made me recognize the value of friendships, the importance of time spent with family members, and that my work will always be there (in fact it multiplies at times) but nothing is more important than taking care of yourself first.