5 Minute Guided Relaxation for Stress Relief

5 Minute Guided Relaxation for Stress Relief

 

Every day holds its own set of stressors. We find it on the road, at work, at school, in our families, our friendships, and our romantic relationships.

Many people don’t take much time out of their day to practice self-care. Our busy lives seem to come first, and our own needs fall second.

In this article, you will be guided through a simple relaxation technique. It is easy enough to do on your own, and versatile enough that you can do it almost anywhere. You can take as much time as you like, but you can easily do it in just 5 minutes.

Getting Comfortable

Before we get started, find a comfortable seated position with your feet flat on the ground, or find a comfortable place to lie down. Make sure you are in a quiet space where you will not be disturbed or startled by noise as you settle into your relaxation. This is also a good time to silence your phone.

If you like, you can play soothing instrumental music or nature sounds to help you silence your mind from the to-do lists, worries, and turbulent emotions that may keep you from relaxing.

While it’s healthy to address our concerns and process our emotions, doing so is an entirely different exercise. This guided relaxation is meant to help you create a safe space that will give you the opportunity to relax any stress-tightened muscles and to enjoy a state of stillness and calm.

Preparing Your Mindset

 

 

 

 

 

Take in a deep breath. Fill your lungs with air and exhale it slowly.

Much of the tension we carry often sits in our shoulders and jaw muscles.

With another deep breath, exhale the tension out of your body.

Notice the way your body is resting. Notice the contact points between your body and your chosen furniture. Let your muscles relax into the space.

Scanning the Body

We will now scan the body from head to toe and focus on relaxing every muscle along the way.

Bring your attention to your forehead. Take another breath and as you exhale allow the muscles in your forehead to release and relax. Feel your eyebrows settle and your eyelids soften.

With another breath, bring your attention to your jaw. Notice any tightness in the muscles there. With your exhale, unclench your jaw and release the tension with your breath.

Now bring your attention to your neck. There is likely a lot of tension there as well. Take a deep, calming breath, and allow your neck muscles to loosen and relax with your exhale. You may notice your shoulders drop to a more relaxed position as well.

The shoulders are often tense and tight. As you inhale, notice the way your shoulders are resting. With your exhale, allow your shoulder muscles to loosen and drop away from your ears.

 

 

 

 

 

Now bring your attention to your arms and hands. As you take a breath in, notice any tightness you’re carrying here. As you exhale out, allow your arms and hands to go limp and rest softly in your lap or at your sides.

Turn your focus to your back and your chest. Take a deep breath and exhale out any stiffness or tightness residing in the muscles here. Feel your spine, your chest, and your ribcage lighten with the release of your breath.

Lower your focus to your thighs, your legs, and your feet. As you breathe in, notice any tightness. Your lower body contains your largest muscle groups, so scan this area slowly from your thighs all the way down to your feet. Let any tension here dissolve with your exhale.

Preparing to End the Session

Give your body one more brief scan from head to toe and unlock any muscles that may have returned to a tense position.

Take one more deep breath in and exhale it out. When you are ready, bring your awareness back to the room, to the sounds you can hear, to the temperature of the air, and to any smells that are present. Hopefully, you feel more relaxed now than you did several minutes ago.

How Do You Feel?

Body scans are a powerful piece of guided relaxation because they allow us to focus on and tend to the muscles that work the hardest and carry our stress. Of course, you can’t relax your way out of any injuries or physical pain, but the hope is that exercises like this will allow you to rest your mind and your body during an otherwise busy day.

For information on What it Means to be Mentally Healthy, (hint: it isn’t just the absence of a mental disorder), read our blog on that topic. To learn how you can Combat Stress with Food, read the post by our Registered Dietician, Debbie James. To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter today!

Fruits and Veggies – Part 1 – Podcast Ep. 31

Fruits and Veggies – Part 1 – Podcast Ep. 31


Welcome to the 31st episode of the Living Healthy podcast, presented by LA Fitness.

On this episode of the Living Healthy Podcast, Debbie James, RDN, answers some questions about fruits and veggies. Can they lose nutrients if they’re frozen? Is there a difference between organic and non-organic? We even get to hear the Drake story Brittany teased us about at the end of Episode 30. 

Listen in to learn the answers to these questions and many more. Then, don’t forget to come back for Part 2! We’ll be talking about super-fruits and veggies, giving you some cooking tips, and discussing whether you can change your taste buds to make veggies taste better! You don’t want to miss it!

How Are We Doing? 


This podcast should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Timecard Markers – Fruits and Vegetables – Podcast Ep. 31, Part 1 

Intro      

Begins at 0:01 

Introduction of Registered Dietician – Debbie James 

3:15 

What Do Fruits and Vegetables Contain That Our Bodies Need? 

3:45 

Are Any of These Nutrients More Important Than Others? 

4:34 

In General, How Many Servings Should We Eat Per Day? 

6:03 

Is There a Difference Between Organic and Non-Organic Produce? 

9:40 

Nutrional Value of Different Types of Fruits and Veggies – See Chart* 

11:22 

Do Fruits and Vegetables Lose Nutrients if They’re Not Consumed Whole? 

14:56 

Do Fruits and Vegetables Lose Nutrients if They’re Frozen? 

16:20 

Are There Certain Veggies You Can Eat to Lose Weight or Bulk Up? 

18:29 

Fruits and Vegetables – What You Can Expect in Part 2 

18:51 

Outro 

19:55 

* Image Source: The contents of this chart were originally published in the IARC Handbooks of Cancer Prevention, Volume 8, Fruits and Vegetables. They have been edited and updated from the original for brevity and relevance. For the complete and original chart, please see the following citation: “Chapter 1: Definitions and Classifications for Fruit and Vegetables.” IARC Handbooks of Cancer Prevention, Volume 8, Fruit and Vegetables, by Harri Vainio, IARC Press, 2003, pp. 20–21.


Recommended Podcast Episodes 

Hydration and Cognition are Linked!

Hydration and Cognition are Linked!

We’re slowly leaving summer behind and with the cooler months we start to think less about the importance of staying hydrated. It’s just as important now as it was in July to drink water, and what it does for your body and mind is pretty amazing. 

Did you know that drinking water can actually improve your mood, memory, attention, and learning? The human brain is made primarily of water: over 75%! It makes sense that, when the body becomes dehydrated, the brain has a more difficult time doing what it needs to. 

It’s easy to lose water if you’re not consuming enough throughout your normal day. If you’re losing more water than usual because of hot weather or exercise, you’ll need to take-in even more. 

How to Stay Hydrated 

According to the Mayo Clinic, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends that on average, men should consume approximately 15.5 cups, or 3.7 liters, of fluid every day. For women, the recommended amount is 11.5 cups, or 2.7 liters. 

Yes, that sounds like a lot!! We’re also used to hearing that we should drink (a much more reasonable) 8 cups of water a day. However, you should take another look at that information. 

The word “consume” means you don’t necessarily need to drink the water you need. You can eat foods that contain water and still meet the recommendations. It also says “fluids,” which means you can drink a water-containing beverage like milk or juice and still get the needed H2O. 

Here are some ways to get the water you need, to keep track of your intake, and to remind you of your next water break. 

 

01.

Drink from a Marked Container 

A container that’s marked according to how much fluid it can hold is going to be your best friend. It’ll be easy to keep track of how much you’ve had to drink. For example, if you drink from a 32-ounce bottle, you can make it your goal to drink 2 or 3 of those bottles every day. This will put you at approximately 1.9- or 2.8-liters respectively. You should be able to get the rest of your water needs by eating. 

 

 02.

Eat Foods with High Water Content  

Healthline published a list of water-rich foods that can help you determine which foods to add to your day. Some great foods from this list include: 

  1. Watermelon 
  2. Cucumber 
  3. Skim Milk 
  4. Lettuce 
  5. Zucchini 
  6. Celery 
  7. Plain Yogurt 

As you can see, there’s a solid mix of sweet/salty flavors and crunchy/creamy textures. There are enough options to find at least one thing you enjoy! 

 

 03.

Use an App to Track Your Intake 

Some fitness apps have a section where you can log your water intake. Other apps exist solely for the purpose of reminding you to drink and to help you track your intake. You can simply go to your App Store from your smartphone and do a search for water tracking apps. If you just want some of our random finds, take a look at these free-to-download apps: 

Waterlogged – iOS 

Daily Water – iOS 

Water Time Pro – Android 

Drink Water – Android 

 

04.

Test Your Hydration

An easy way to tell if you’re hydrated enough is if the color of your urine is pale yellow to clear. Darker urine colors may indicate that you’re not getting enough water. There are other reasons why urine color may change so never take it strictly as a sign of dehydration!  

Another quick test is the skin elasticity test. If you pinch the skin on the top of your hand, it should quickly drop back to its original position. If it holds the pinched shape and slowly comes back down, you might be dehydrated. 

Remember that every body is different

Keep in mind that the amount of water your body requires to function healthily is going to be different from what someone else’s body requires. Even if you’re generally the same in terms of age, health, and fitness level, your body may simply need more or less. Listen to your body and focus on you! 

To read what our Registered Dietician, Debbie James, had to say about Drinking Too Much Water, read her response to our guest’s question. Or, to learn more about different types of water, read her response to this question on Distilled Water. To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter today!

Cholesterol and Exercise – How to Manage Your Numbers Naturally

Cholesterol and Exercise – How to Manage Your Numbers Naturally

(Evidence Based)

Does Exercise Help Manage Cholesterol?

Typically, we might hear that changing our dietary habits is the key to reducing bad cholesterol and to increasing good cholesterol. However, studies have shown that exercise also plays an important role in cholesterol management. 

Combining proper nutrition and regular exercise is the key to healthy cholesterol numbers. 

The research appears to disagree on whether the frequency or intensity of the exercise is important to improving cholesterol. However, the consensus lies in the duration of exercise.  

From Kodama and colleagues’ review of over 25 studies, all seem to agree that regular aerobic exercise, performed for a longer amount of time per session, is what will lead to improvement in overall cholesterol levels. 

What are HDLs and LDLs? 

Before we dive in, let’s take a moment to talk about some of the key terms we’ll be using. 

LDL – Low-Density Lipoprotein is what’s commonly termed “bad cholesterol.” High levels of this stuff are what put you at risk for cardiovascular complications

HDL – High-Density Lipoprotein is what we like to call “good cholesterol.” This is what carries bad cholesterol and triglycerides to the liver in order to get rid of them. 

Triglyceride – These come from the fats you consume. Like LDL, a high amount of triglyceride is also linked to cardiovascular disease

What Can Exercise Do for Cholesterol? 

A study on activity and cholesterol found that physically active individuals had lower levels of LDL and Triglyceride, and higher levels of HDL, than individuals who lived a sedentary (non-active) lifestyle. 

The levels of activity among the participants were mixed. This means that low, moderate, and high intensity exercises all made a difference. This is great news for people who are afraid to start exercising for fear they aren’t “fit enough” to exercise. If this is you, read our post on The Common Misconception of Getting Fit Before Joining a Gym

Exercises You Can You Do to Lower LDLs and Raise HDLs 

Regardless of our suggestions, you should choose an exercise that you can comfortably do for extended periods of time. It may also be necessary to have your doctor monitor how your heart responds to any new exercise routine.  

The American Heart Association recommends about 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week (that’s about 30 minutes a day if you’re working out 5 days a week), or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week.  

You can mix and match different amounts of moderate and vigorous exercise. The idea is to aim for some amount of time in the AHA’s general ballpark and work your way to a level that feels good for you.  

Aerobics

Aerobic exercises include activities like jogging, running, swimming, bicycling, dancing, and others that elevate your heart rate. 

To effect cholesterol, one study suggests that an effective level of weekly exercise is approximately 17 to 18 miles of jogging at a moderate pace. If that’s too much, 11 miles is still effective but to a lesser degree.  

If 30 minutes a day sounds a bit vague, this jogging recommendation may give you a more focused perspective on how much exercise you should aim for.  

Low to Moderate Intensity Resistance Training 

Resistance training may involve the use of objects, like dumbbells, or your own body weight to improve your muscle strength, tone, mass, or endurance. Examples include lifting free weights, bench press, deadlift, squats, lunges, and more. 

A review conducted by Mann and colleagues investigates the effects of resistance training on cholesterol. Their findings suggested that low to moderate intensity workouts were just as effective as high-intensity workouts! More good news! 

This type of exercise can be done independently to improve cholesterol or be paired with aerobic exercise. 

Conclusions

Long story short: 

  1. Regular exercise, performed for extended periods of time, is the big game changer
  2. Cardio and resistance training are shown to improve cholesterol
  3. It’s more about quality than quantity

To learn from our Registered Dietician, Debbie James, about how to lower cholesterol with the right food choices, read the answers to her Q&As on low carb and low fat diets and cholesterol friendly foods. To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter today!

Sources

  1. “American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids.” Www.heart.org, 2018, www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults.

     

  2. Kodama, Satoru, et al. “Effect of Aerobic Exercise Training on Serum Levels of High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol.” Archives of Internal Medicine, American Medical Association, 28 May 2007, jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/486847.

     

  3. Kraus, William E, et al. “Effects of the Amount and Intensity of Exercise on Plasma Lipoproteins: NEJM.” New England Journal of Medicine, 2002, www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa020194#t=article.

     

  4. Mann, Steven, et al. “Differential Effects of Aerobic Exercise, Resistance Training and Combined Exercise Modalities on Cholesterol and the Lipid Profile: Review, Synthesis and Recommendations.” SpringerLink, Springer International Publishing, 31 Oct. 2013, link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40279-013-0110-5.

     

  5. Skoumas, John, et al. “Physical Activity, High Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol and Other Lipids Levels, in Men and Women from the ATTICA Study.” Lipids in Health and Disease, BioMed Central, 12 June 2003, lipidworld.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1476-511X-2-3.

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