It’s challenging to start and maintain healthy habits, but success is all around us. Here are some examples of how your coworkers have done it.
SRBC to the rescue-
I am immensely grateful for the Stress Reduction and Biofeedback Center because I often struggle with anxiety. I still get anxious, but through learning breathing/meditation techniques from an EAP counselor and testing out the new skills at the Biofeedback Center, I am now able to unwind and regain perspective during stressful moments. My favorite tool at the Biofeedback Center is the actual biofeedback machine. It monitors a person’s stress level and gives off a higher tone when someone is stressed and a lower tone when relaxed. After I stopped trying to beat the machine (which did not work), I practiced the breathing and mediation exercises I had learned from an EAP counselor. It was awesome to see what a difference it made. Once I started focusing on just breathing and then acknowledged thoughts and let them float away, I was able to relax and the tone of the biofeedback machine become low and soft. I quickly learned what works and what doesn’t in regards to stress reduction through using the machine. I have been using my newly gained relaxation skills in my professional and personal life, and it has made an incredibly positive impact in relating with others and overall happiness.
Last year at this time, I hated everything about my life. I generally just went through the motions of my daily tasks hoping that nothing would push me over the edge. My energy level was extremely low. I found it hard to communicate with everyone, including my family and friends. I was planning the easiest escape route from almost everything that I had started just a year earlier (especially my dream of getting a PhD). Nothing seemed to be going right.
Then, I attended a class where I was told to start using breathing exercises. Within a couple of weeks of taking the time to “breathe”, my head cleared and I began to see things more clearly. I wanted to change. I was tired of hating my life. That is when I decided to learn more about the techniques that I could use in order to change my way of thinking.
In January, I started working out. I started attending yoga at Gregory Gym one day a week. I also started running using the Couch to 5K plan. This change started with 3 workouts a week. Working out helped me identify one of my major problems. Even though I felt exhausted all of the time, I was actually FULL of nervous energy/anxiety. Running and yoga allowed me to release a lot of this energy and gain focus. This transition was not very smooth. I had many set backs from January until April. Through the use of accountability and becoming more self-aware, I identified the benefits of working out and began writing workouts in PEN on my calendar and everything else in pencil. No matter what, I was going to take care of myself.
After incorporating the workouts, I began eating healthier. I started the change by eating 5 fruits and vegetables a day. After a month of making this change, and feeling the dramatic difference in my mood and energy level, I started making conscious decisions to eat as healthy as possible.
After a summer of working out, yoga, breathing, eating healthier and taking the time to take care of myself, my life has been dramatically transformed. My thought processes are completely different. All of my changes are regular habits. I am training for a half marathon. Running and yoga are normal parts of my day. I enjoy going to the store to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables along with other ingredients to make delicious and nutritious meals with my husband. I ENJOY MY WORK.
During stressful situations and dark times, I find comfort in my constant routine. There is no doubt in my mind that whatever I come up against, the time that I take for self-care will have prepared me well enough to survive and be successful.
Not long ago, I was complaining to a good friend that I hardly ever have time to make it to the gym for a real workout. I’m just too busy or too tired after work! She told me that recent studies showed that if you can get your heart rate up for even 10 minutes, you receive some healthy cardiovascular benefits. I went on to read that three 10-minute bursts of exercise in a day yielded exactly the same benefits as an uninterrupted 30-minute workout! I may not have an hour and a half to go to the gym, but I can certainly find 10 minutes here and there– even at work!
The building I work in on campus has 17 floors, so I started taking the stairs instead of the elevator 3 times a day to get my heart rate up for 10 minutes. (I actually have to walk them twice to make it last 10 full minutes). There are landings between floors, so when I need to pause for a breath I’ll stop on a landing and do some simple stretches. I found the steps and railings to be great tools for calf, hamstring and quad stretches!). This felt so good that I finally snuck my yoga mat and a couple of 10 lb barbells into my office, so now during my lunch break I can close the door and get even more of a workout in!
The difference in how I feel during the course of my work day has been phenomenal. I find myself less stressed out and more productive. I find I am less likely to over eat during lunch. My patience with people has improved, and I’m not as tired when I leave in the evening. Who knew you could add so much physical activity into a desk-job work day?
Near the end of last year, I found myself having low energy and poor concentration much of the time. Some small changes since then have made a big difference. I have a Rec Sports membership, and I started playing in a noon time basketball game 2 days a week. It’s great to have a fun activity that gets you moving, and it keeps me going for a pretty intense 50 minute workout. I was in the habit of working all day and loading up most of my calories in a huge dinner. Now I’m making efforts to eat more sensibly throughout the day. I have a big smoothie at the start of every day and a sensible lunch, and I find my energy to be much more consistent throughout the day. Over the last year I’ve lost 10 pounds without feeling like I’ve gone on any kind of diet or workout regimen. It’s taught me that some very small changes can lead to great results.
Steps in the right direction-
I was inspired by a friend who lost 35 lbs by her 35 birthday (35 X 35). I decided to pursue the same goals, although I knew it was a bit aggressive. As time went on, I was losing some weight but not near enough to be able to achieve my goal (at least not in healthy way). After considerable thought and some disappointment, I decided to revise my goals and try to aim for something smaller and more short-term. So just before Halloween, I settled on a goal of the “12 lbs of Christmas.” I was going to try to lose 12 lbs before Christmas. Didn’t quite make it but came close. New goal is “Sweet 16 for my Sweetheart,” 16 lbs by my anniversary (late March).
Losing weight is definitely harder this time than when I was younger and had no children. I’ve had to make little changes here and there. For exercise, I try to walk 10-15 min in the morning and afternoon, so I at least get 20-30 min a day. It also forces me to take my break, which is nice. Drinking a lot more water now and I try to have one fruit or vegetable with every meal plus maybe one more for snack. Of course, I watch my portions (usually means no seconds). Do I always reach my goals? No. Do I get discouraged? Yes. But I look at the fact overall I’ve lost almost 20 lbs and a dress size. Those are victories. Be a little disappointed, but push it aside and look for something new to aim for. No point in beating yourself up. I also look for inspiration from others who are trying new things and make positive changes in their lives. I can do it too! Getting your mind in the right place is the key.
Sneaking more fruits into your day-
My health goal is to eat more fruits and vegetables. If I bring in fruit at the start of the week, I put it in a bowl right next to my computer. It is a simple thing to do, but having it right next to me, directly in my line of vision, leads me to eat more fruit during the workday!
I smoked for 40 years. When I was young I was invincible and had no concern. Through the years, I attempted to quit several times after reading a smokers horror story here and there. Each time I failed, I always had an excuse. I never really took a good long look at how addicted I had become. This past June I read an email at work about free prescriptions to aid a smoker with quitting. I really wanted to quit, so I went to my Dr. and she prescribed Chantix for me. My wife also was put on Chantix. I could only handle the side effects of Chantix for about a month, my wife had no problem with it. We decided to quit smoking July 9th 2012 and we are still both smoke free today with no intentions of smoking ever again. I think that the most valuable thing I learned this time around was that a person needs to dedicate to a certain amount of time and stick to it. I gave myself one month, totally committed to one month. No cheating, no back sliding, a promise to yourself and the person you are quitting with. That is an important element to success, having a partner for strength when you need support. Hats off to all of the cessation programs that are being offered. What a new and exciting way to climb a stair case, or smell and taste the food that is all around us.