7 Ways to Avoid a Stress-Induced Heart Attack: Your 2016 Election Season Survival Guide
First of all, calling it “Election Season” is a misnomer. It’s Election Year. By the time this is all over, it will have been about a year and a half. Now, I realize I live in a politically-charged city (Chicago) and work in a very politically-involved town (Evanston) but I don’t think I’m alone in feeling like this election is weighing heavily on people’s minds, no matter where you stand in any party, no matter what city or town you happen to spend time in. It’s very rare to happen upon anyone who feels “meh” about the current state of affairs.
I admit I have been feeling a lot of anxiety. I do not like un-constructive confrontation, loud voices (unless I’m at a concert), fighting of any kind (unless it’s on The Americans). I especially hate when people get interrupted. The mere sound of a debate makes my heart stomp inside my chest and reach for the whiskey. Even though I tend to agree with my Facebook friends’ political views, all of the posting and the ranting and the raging make me edgy. And the political ads on TV might one day cause me to break my TV. Thank goodness for Netflix.
Which brings me to you, dear reader. If you are anything like me, you, too, may be noticing you’re acting out from stress. It may very well be from the politics — the inspiration for my post today — or even just from daily life. So here are my top 7 ways to stay calm, keep your blood pressure down and avoid a stress-induced heart attack*.
1. Know your limits. How much time do you spend in front of the news? How much do your friends, family members, coworkers talk about politics day to day? Thanks to the 24-hour news cycle, Facebook feeds and the other hundreds of ways our eyes and ears can gain access to current affairs, it’s easy to become oversaturated with noise. Here are a few ways to combat your exposure:
Now, if you ARE a member of the media or work in politics and policy, the above clearly won’t work for you. But the below can.
2. Create a relaxing pre-bedtime ritual. Is your brain filled with STUFF that makes it hard to fall asleep? Stop drifting off in front of the TV or going to bed right after watching/reading stress-inducing crazy-pantsiness. Take 30 minutes to wind down and shut your brain off. Here are a few ways you can do this:
3. Join the adult coloring book revolution! Coloring is a form of art therapy and can be a mental reset. Here are some fun coloring books to choose from:
4. Find non-food or drink-related “rewards” or “comforts”. Rather than reaching for the booze or cookie or Chinese food, find another kind of treat that makes you feel warm and fuzzy and relaxed. This could range from:
5. Meditate right after waking up or right before bed. If you feel like you don’t have time, try waking up or going to bed 5 minutes earlier to make the time. Start with 5 minutes and work from there. Sometimes 5 minutes is enough. And there are apps for that!
6. Shut it down. If Facebook or Instagram are making you ultra stressed out these days, take a break. Shut it down. If you can’t bear the thought of unplugging, here are a few things you can do:
7. Last but not least: Exercise. We all know breaking a sweat can do wonders for our state of mind and overall well-being. Find something you love to do, be it lifting weights, spinning, running, kickboxing, yoga. Just try to do something a few times a week that leaves your body feeling really good and your mind clear.
I am in no way saying that ignorance is bliss. It’s quite the opposite. Stay informed. I am proposing that you figure out exactly what you need to know to make your choices at the polls while also being a happy, healthy, sane and productive member of society. You won’t be doing anybody any good if you land yourself in the hospital come election day.
*I’m not a doctor but these are well-proven ways to calm down :)
Lynn was referred to me by my former trainer Kim Gerbosi (Chicagoans, especially moms, look her up!). Lynn had just finished physical therapy after tearing her gluteus medius (which I lovingly refer to as the Side Butt). The amount of pain she was in was sometimes excruciating. Climbing the stairs in her house or even walking for a length of time left her in pain. A former avid runner, Lynn's life turned upside down. If you've ever been in chronic pain, you know how debilitating it can be physically and especially mentally.
We started literally from the ground up. Working with her physical therapist, we came up with a program that would build her a strong foundation and we went from there!
Fast forward about 8 months. Lynn can now go up the stairs and walk miles without pain. She can run after her kids without the fear of re-injuring herself. In fact, a friend of hers noticed she hadn't even mentioned her hip in a long time. She's squatting, lunging, deadlifting and kettlebell swinging with the best of them. And her son tells his friends his mom is a weight lifter (which I think is such a huge compliment).
She's strong and so kind and awesome and I'm so excited for you to meet Lynn!
Why did you seek out a personal trainer?
For most of my life, running was my only form of exercise and I LOVED it. So after I tore my gluteus medius (probably from running too much), I was stuck in a huge fitness rut, not having any idea how to stay in shape. It hurt to walk, climb stairs, get in and out of a car, everything was extremely painful. I felt very afraid of injuring myself further so I desperately needed someone to guide me through. So, after “graduating” from physical therapy I decided personal training would be my next hurdle.
What were your initial goals when you started training?
My initial goals were to have less pain while walking and going up stairs. I also wanted to lose some weight and to be able to enjoy exercising again.
How has strength training helped you out?
I had never strength trained before. I had always thought that running was the only (and best) way to stay in shape. I avoided any form of exercise that was slow. Strength training has taught me that a good workout can be something so much more than a rigorous, high-impact cardio workout and that it can improve the overall fitness of every part of your body. Strength training has isolated my muscles that needed to be stronger to make my injury less of a hindrance. I love how Izzy creates programs for each client based on their individual needs - it’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all approach.
What do you enjoy most/look forward to when you train?
I always look forward to coming to my sessions. The time just flies by with Izzy. I also look forward to seeing how much I can push myself to improve my strength.
Is there anything surprising that you've discovered with strength training?
I have discovered that I am really strong. I have overcome a significant injury through consistent hard work at the gym.
Do you have any fitness goals for this year?
My goals are to continue to stay committed to the hard work in the gym and to eat well.
How would you describe your philosophy on working out and nutrition now vs before you started? Izzy has helped me to see that nutrition is paramount to feeling good and strong. I quickly learned to incorporate protein with each meal and to plan ahead. I have changed my mindset that one day of bad eating is not the end of the world and that each day is a fresh chance to do it better. I used to refer to my injury as the “weak side” or the “bad side” of my body, but through Izzy’s persistent reminders, I now know that I have a “strong side” and a “stronger side”. I think the message that Izzy sends to her clients is to be kind to yourself and to remove those negative/discouraging phrases we say to ourselves. It really does make a huge difference.
What advice would you have for anyone just starting out?
Stick with it and you will get stronger - mentally and physically.
Anything else to share?
I recently told Izzy that she saved my life and I really meant it. After this awful injury I was resolved to never working out again and just packing on the pounds. Izzy has transformed my thinking and now I cannot wait to see what I can do next.
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