For the final part of our wellness series, we are talking about lifestyle changes that can positively impact sleep, gut health, anxiety and energy levels. There are many healthy habits that can be easily incorporated into your day-to-day routine to help alleviate these chronic stressors.
You’ve probably heard time and time again that meditation is a great mind-body wellness technique to reduce stress and its many negative side effects, but it also plays a huge role in improving gut health. More research explains the bilateral connection of our gut’s enteric system and brain’s central nervous system. Known as our “second brain”, the gut communicates with the brain through tons of neurological sensors, hormones and the immune system. You may have experienced GI distress when you’re nervous or excited, or feeling tired, restless or unfocused after eating certain foods. Meditation helps calm any hypersensitivity between the brain and gut, allowing the body to improve digestion and keep the mind at ease. Here are some simple ways to include meditation into your day:
- Before getting out of bed in the morning, try deep breathing for 8 breaths. This is especially helpful for people who wake up distressed or anxious about their day. Deep breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, helping to reduce cortisol levels, slow the heart rate and relax muscles in the entire body including the GI tract.
- In the mid-afternoon, between 2-4pm, find a quiet place to sit for 10 minutes to clear your mind and focus on your breath. It’s usually during this point in the day that our blood sugar levels may be low causing you to feel sleepy and ready to reach for caffeine. Taking this break will allow your body and mind to reconnect and naturally energize and regain focus.
- Yoga is a great way to combine meditation and physical activity. It helps improve blood circulation, which boosts energy levels and regulates digestion. It also improves flexibility and core strength leading to fewer aches and inflammation which can lead to better quality sleep.
- Incorporate a calming, non-stimulating activity an hour before bed like reading, taking a bath, going for a slow walk, drinking a cup of herbal tea or listening to music. This nightly ritual helps you get away from your daily tasks and primes your mind and body for bed.
A little thankfulness goes a long way! Practicing gratitude has been shown to improve sleep quality, and daytime function by increasing mindfulness, patience, and reducing irritability. So how do you practice gratitude exactly? It’s more of a state of mind that you work your way up to over time resulting in more sustainable happiness. When you find yourself frustrated, unfocused, anxious, or drained, take a couple minutes to think about all the good things happening in your life. It’s easy for us to get bogged down with short term issues whether it’s work, social or personal. By taking the time to jot down what you’re grateful for, you’re reminding yourself about what really matters, which helps improve the way you respond to daily struggles and conflict.
Do you ever stop to think if your managing your calendar or if your calendar is managing you? Oftentimes, we over schedule ourselves and don’t leave enough time for basic necessities. Losing control of your time can lead to stress, anxiety, loss of sleep and exhaustion. Here are some tips for managing your time to include more you time!
- Give yourself 15 minutes between appointments to debrief and get ready for the next one, grab a tea or water, use the bathroom, stretch your legs, whatever you need to do.
- Write your goals down whether they’re short term or long term and ways you’re planning to reach them. This helps keep them a priority. Continue to revisit and revise them frequently.
- Balancing work and play are essential! Create out of office plans and stick to them. You’ll feel grateful you did.
- Be realistic with your time and don’t be afraid to say no or to delegate. Compromising is a great way to show you’re a team player, while respecting your time and quality of work.
Planning for your meals can be the last thing on your mind with a packed schedule. Make meal planning a priority by taking some time each week to put a menu together and create a grocery list to effectively manage your time and keep meal prep to a minimum. Follow these meal planning tips to stay on top of your weekly meal prep:
- Get inspired! Even if you don’t care about making your meals tasty, browsing recipes improves the variety of foods in your diet which provides your body with more of the nutrients it needs. Look up seasonal produce, and check out your local farmer’s markets, which also tend to be more cost effective.
- ALWAYS start your meals with produce. At least half of your plate should be a variety of fruits and vegetables. The nutrients found in produce provides the body with sustainable energy, healthy bacteria for the gut, and hormone regulation for sleep and anxiety. Have these be the star of the meal and include smaller amounts of high- quality sources of protein like grass-fed beef, pastured poultry, eggs, legumes and whole grains, and heart healthy fats like sprouted nuts, seeds, avocado, and olive oil to keep you full and satisfied.
- Get to know your grocery store and create a food list in line with the store’s layout. Most stores have the produce section first, followed by the meat and seafood section, canned foods, grains and oils in the center aisles, and the dairy, eggs and frozen section at the end.
- Include a variety of meals with varying prep and cooking times. It’s always good to have a go-to meal that’s quick and easy to make when you’re in a pinch to avoid making an impulse meal decision.
- If you have time to cook part of your meals in advance like meats and grains, great! If not, utilize a crock pot or instant pot to keep cooking low maintenance.
And just remember, Kitchfix is always here for you when you’re not in the cooking mood, but still looking for a tasty, healthy meal!
We hope you enjoyed this three-part wellness series! Here are some takeaway points to keep you on the path for improving sleep quality and energy levels, reducing stress and anxiety, and strengthening gut function.
Diet is the most important aspect of resolving these chronic conditions. Re-evaluate the foods your eating on a daily basis and make every meal balanced in minimally refined high fiber carbohydrates, high-quality protein and healthy fats. Supplementing is a great complement to a healthy diet and may be beneficial for specific conditions. See Part 1 for specific nutrients for sleep, anxiety and energy.
Alternative practices can provide additional health benefits without negative side effects. Read about how essential oils, adaptogens and CBD can benefit the whole body in Part 2.
Finally, lifestyle habits help reframe the way we think and act. By incorporating a self-care routine, you can help calm and reconnect the mind and body, improving health and creating sustainable solutions to cope with chronic stressors.