As we head into the Labor Day weekend, many Americans are looking forward to some well-deserved time off and relaxation. From a health standpoint, nothing could be better, especially if you're one of those people who make a habit of burning the candle at both ends.
Setting and pursuing goals is an important part of moving forward in life, and making time for ourselves to Relax, Renew and Recharge should be no different. We ALL need to step back now and then and take a breather. It's impossible to go full speed all the time. Finding time for the "Three Rs" doesn't mean you're lazy or compromising on performance. In fact, it's quite the opposite. These are necessary for maintaining the energy and focus we need to do our best.
Now that the Labor Day weekend is here, why not take that opportunity catch your breath, assess your health, and let go of stress?
Stress affects each of us in different ways, and none of them are beneficial to our health. Stress can weaken your immune system and cause uncomfortable physical symptoms like headaches and stomach problems, as well as insomnia and irritability. While the link between stress and heart disease is still unclear, studies have suggested that chronic stress that causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure may damage the artery walls.
There are lots of great recommendations out there for managing stress. The most important approach, however, is the one that works for you.
For me, just sitting down at the keyboard and typing the words of this column is a way of relaxing. And after work, taking my dogs for a walk is a peaceful way for me to let go of stress and recharge. If I only have a few moments in between meetings, just closing my eyes and picturing the beautiful, tree-lined lakes in my native Michigan (a place I don't get back to nearly often enough) can be surprisingly peaceful.
Here are 10 ways to relax, renew and recharge this weekend:
Talk with family and friends.
A daily dose of friendship is great medicine. Call or write your friends and family to share your feelings, hopes and joys.
Engage in physical activity.
Regular physical activity relieves mental and physical tension. Physically active adults have lower risk of depression and loss of mental functioning. Physical activity can be a great source of pleasure, too. Try walking, swimming, biking or dancing every day.
Accept the things you cannot change.
Don't say, "I'm too old." You can still learn new things, work toward a goal, love and help others.
Remember to laugh.
Laughter makes you feel good. Don't be afraid to laugh out loud at a joke, a funny movie or a comic strip, even when you're alone.
Give up the bad habits.
Too much alcohol, cigarettes or caffeine can increase stress. If you smoke, decide to quit now.
Try to "pace" instead of "race." Plan ahead and allow enough time to get the most important things done.
Get enough sleep.
Try to get six to eight hours of sleep each night. If you can't sleep, take steps to help reduce stress and depression. Physical activity also may improve the quality of sleep.
Use "to do" lists to help you focus on your most important tasks. Approach big tasks one step at a time. For example, start by organizing just one part of your life -- your car, desk, kitchen, closet, cupboard or drawer.
Practice giving back.
Volunteer your time or return a favor to a friend. Helping others helps you.
Try not to worry.
The world won't end if your grass isn't mowed or your kitchen isn't cleaned. You may need to do these things, but today might not be the right time.
Finally, why not take just a little more time this weekend to revisit those long-forgotten New Year's resolutions to get more exercise, eat healthier and lose weight? For a quick (five-minute) assessment of your health, visit the AHA's My Life Check and receive personalized tips to help you get started on the path to well-being again.
Have a safe, healthy and relaxing holiday weekend.
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