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STRESS pencil

Helping Older Adults Flex their Stress Resilience Muscles 

We can all agree that stress levels have skyrocketed to an all-time high following the “year of fear.” Older adults with chronic conditions have been the hardest hit since they are most vulnerable to Sars-CoV-2 and severe outcomes. Millions have been struggling with the fear of infection and mortality; inactivity and muscle weakness as well as social distancing and isolation. Helping older adults build stress resilience strategies into daily life is critical to bolster and protect physical, mental and social wellbeing.

Living under chronic stress leads to bad decisions. That’s because the part of the brain called the amygdala is activated when under threat. It is our survival brain with the “fight or flight” response being its signature. This means that blood is flowing to the “reactive” brain and away from the “thinking and planning” part of our brain, the pre-frontal cortex.   

This can contribute to poor eating, activity and lifestyle choices. Convenience and processed foods can easily take center stage along with sedentary behaviors and heavier use of drugs and alcohol. This can lead to malnutrition, decreased blood flow and the increased risk and severity of chronic conditions as well as impairing immune function. It is a recipe for dis-ease and higher health risks, particularly in pandemic times.

Chronic stress puts the body into a catabolic state of “breaking down” while also turning down the volume on the body’s anabolic pathways of “building up” (1). The body was designed to live in the parasympathetic state, also known as “rest, digest, heal and repair” mode.  Constantly living in the stress response leads to high levels of cortisol, oxidative stress and pro-inflammatory cytokines (immune messengers). This chemical marinade literally shrinks muscle and brain cells (2).  

Chronic Stress Stinks & Shrinks

What happens when muscle and brain cells atrophy? Sarcopenia and cognitive decline arrive on the scene. This in turn leads to the downward spiral of physical and mental pathology that can include disability, dependency, dementia, an increased risk of falls, fractures and hospitalizations.   

Resilience is a Process

The American Psychological Association defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress,” or “bouncing back” from difficult experiences (3). It is an adaptive process that can be developed. Being “hardy” or resilient is linked with positive outcomes, including improved functional mobility, health and longevity.  

Medical fitness specialists can help older adults build stress resilience by empowering them with education and encouragement. This can be a powerful intervention as it combines education with behavior modification. It includes asking questions while providing clear messaging that reduce fears and clarify health benefits followed by simple actionable steps. The pro-active older adult can choose to practice the strategies that resonate with them.  Being accountable to and encouraged by a trainer knowledgeable about geriatrics can support the process of building resilience to weather “stress storms.” 

Building Stress Resilience

Like health, resilience is multi-dimensional and includes physical, mental and social components. As fitness professionals, we understand that exercise activity is the most powerful intervention to relieve stress because movement positively impacts the health of every cell in the body and brain. After all, who doesn’t feel better after an appropriate workout or walk in the sunshine?!

5 Simple Strategies

Being mindful of breathing, eating and moving are great ways to build stress resilience.  Living in the present moment helps develop awareness, connection and calm. Avoid overwhelm by choosing to practice one small step at a time.

1. Breathe Deeply. Breath connects body and mind. Stress breathing is shallow breathing. By focusing on the depth and pace of breath, the parasympathetic nervous system is engaged. Encourage older adults to become aware of tension and overwhelm; to take “Breathing Breaks” while focusing on breathing in and out through the nose. It can be as simple as starting with 3 deep breaths and working up to 30.  

2. Eat Slowly. In order to digest food and absorb nutrients properly, eat seated in a relaxed, calm environment.  Encourage older adults to slow down and focus on chewing food 20-30 times. This supports the mechanical breakdown of food for better digestion. While eating, focus on the food’s aroma, flavor, texture, mouth feel and swallowing. 

3. Tea Time. Take a few minutes to savor a warm cup of herbal tea like lemon balm, lavender or chamomile.  Enjoy the aroma and feeling of warmth in hand and the body. This practice is a wonderful way to wind down at the end of the day or as needed.

4. Gratitude Attitude. Before rising and/or going to bed, think about, say out loud or write down 3 things you are grateful for. Practicing gratitude is linked with boosting happiness, optimism and a sense of greater well-being (3).

5. Move more. Inactivity and sedentary time slows down blood flow, metabolism and immune function. Encourage older adults to break up sedentary time with 5 minutes of movement every hour. Light intensity activity like house cleaning has been shown to reduce the risk of mobility disability by 40%! Simply moving more throughout the day is powerful medicine, especially when paired with a tailored exercise program. 

Today, building stress resilience is absolutely critical for older adult’s functional and cognitive health.  They will be so grateful for your guidance!


Cate Reade, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian, Exercise Physiologist and Functional Medicine Practitioner candidate on a mission to improve functional mobility and health span utilizing the power of lifestyle medicine. She has been teaching, writing and prescribing healthy eating and exercise programs for over 25 years. Today, as CEO of Resistance Dynamics and inventor of the MoveMor™ Mobility Trainer, she develops exercise products and programs that target joint flexibility, strength and balance deficits to help older adults fall less and live more.


References 

  1. Kirwan R et al (2020). Sarcopenia during COVID-19 lockdown restrictions: long-term health effects of short-term muscle loss. Geroscience. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7528158/
  2. Mohammed A & Kunugi H (2021). Screening for Sarcopenia (Physical Frailty) in the COVID-19 Era. Int J Endocrinol. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8152925/
  3. MacLeod, S et al (2016). The impact of resilience among older adults. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0197457216000689
active adults walking

Can movement be therapy for emotional stress?

The more rhythmic and intense the movement, the greater this effect, since it elicits focus.

Emotional stress makes life overwhelming. Sometimes, we experience an extremely stressful or disturbing event, while at other times we accumulate the stress of upsetting interactions over time. In either case we are left feeling emotionally out of control and helpless. Our minds feel like a hamster spinning away on a wheel, leaving us drained, heavy, disconnected and incapable of making rational inferences and decisions. Our bodies feel like logs being lugged around, making daily chores onerous.

Irrespective of how it’s triggered, emotional and/or psychological disharmony has wide-ranging physical reactions and symptoms. While most of us know of the emotional impact (feelings of sadness, anger, fear, guilt, self-doubt and many more) the physical impact is not widely spoken about. This could include muscular tension, aches and pains, difficulty sleeping or insomnia, breathlessness among others.

Everyone’s triggers and responses are unique. Healing from emotional stress, hence, cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution. If symptoms persist for long or are severe, do seek professional help. That said, there are a few practices that can aid in self-healing.

Movement

Movement can be therapeutic for a number of reasons. As we know, stress impacts mental and physical equilibrium, turning the body into a repository of unpleasant side effects. A prolonged state of negative emotions like anger, fear and hyper responsiveness in daily life, adversely impacts the muscular and nervous system. Movement and exercise can help address this at a dual level. At a physical level, it helps by releasing endorphins (aka happy hormones) and calming adrenaline. The more rhythmic and intense the movement, the greater this effect, since it elicits focus. Target at least 30 minutes of exercise/movement on most days. It could be any activity that interests and engages you, be it dancing, yoga, sport, running, swimming, cycling. It might feel better to do it in company, to help break any self-imposed isolation. You could split it up over intervals during the day (though half an hour is not much of an ask to reset yourself and get your mind, body and life on track!).

Mindfulness

Try to pay full attention to the activity and how you perform it. Stay with the process. The mind will eventually tune into the rhythm of the body, making you more ‘mindful’ of the activity and yield a positive sensory outcome, including from deep within. For some, this may be attained with gentler workouts, and for some more intense activities could derive the response, depending on one’s personality as well as physical capacity. Remember, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way here. The beauty of movement is that it serves all, and it can be scaled up and down dynamically to make you feel most connected and generate positive inner vibes.

Deep breathing

Focus on the act of breathing and on how the breath goes in and out of the body (‘mindful’ breathing). It acts as another powerful therapeutic tool. This is true even during movement. Movement becomes more mindful when you focus on the breath while executing it, maximizing positive benefits physically (more oxygen, less physical stress) and mentally (greater connection with self, less mental stress). It aids in giving the mind a much-needed break while energizing the body.

Good sleep

Try maintaining sleeping and waking up time and hours even though it may seem silly or impossible. For those with sleeping difficulties or insomnia, the body clock needs resetting, requiring some repetitive reinforcements to break the negative cycle. It’s essential to retrain the body and mind to rejuvenate, rest and recuperate.

Changes won’t happen overnight, but all these practices together can go a long way to impart a greater sense of control, which propels us towards a happier state. It’s about reclaiming peace, being kind to ourselves and catalyzing inner healing.


Vani Pahwa is a Functional Fitness specialist with over fifteen years of experience, and cutting-edge certifications from leading internationally-accredited and globally recognized fitness institutes. She is also a Cancer Exercise Specialist (perhaps one of the first in the country). Sought after for her multi-disciplinary fitness modules and expertise, Vani has conducted fitness workshops for leading corporate houses, conditioning and training camps for various sports communities, training programs for coaches, personal training programs for CEOs of multi-nationals, athletes, junior and senior sports professionals among others. Her combination of specialties, client profile and range, and extensive work experience makes her unique in the country. She is the founder of Body in Motion.

Original article published in a leading national daily:  https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/movement-as-a-therapy-for-emotional-stress/article26566357.ece

stress-station

12 Tips for Staying Healthy in a High Stress World

What do performing artists, professional athletes, politicians, and business executives have in common? They work long hours under the spotlight in constantly changing circumstances. They must adapt to stressful events and situations in short time frames while meeting the high expectations of themselves and others. They must perform and produce and look good doing it!

yoga mats

4 Simple Ways Your Fitness Routine Can Benefit from Self-Care

When you think of taking care of your health, exercise is one of the first things that comes to mind. You know you need to stay active and stay in shape to protect your body, but what you may not realize is that you also need self-care to protect your mind. Combining self-care and fitness is the best wellness move you can make. Here are some ways to do it.

Start Working Out More at Home

Sticking to your fitness goals is important. If getting to the gym causes you stress or interferes with your schedule, though, you may want to think about building a gym at home. It’s easier than you think, and can make getting those daily workouts in easier on your schedule. You can use any extra space you have, whether it’s your garage, a spare room or a basement, and quickly set up a workout space in your home. The equipment you fill it with will hinge on your needs and the amount of space available, but for most people, basic workout equipment, like a jump rope and dumbbells, is enough to get a good workout at home and stick to their budget.

Consider Holistic Wellness Practices

A regular fitness routine will help keep your body in shape. Working out can help enhance your mood as well, but it’s not really enough to manage your mental health. You also need to find ways to help your body recover after all that effort, which is where holistic self-care practices come in handy. Incorporating practices like acupuncture, Pilates, massage and chiropractic treatment can be beneficial for relieving stress and helping keep your emotions in balance. Yoga is another practice that complements most physical fitness routines, and it improves strength and flexibility in your body. Runners can use beginners poses such as downward facing dog and pigeon to help build more muscle and keep joints flexible, all while reducing stress.

Treat Pain Through Self-Care and Exercise

If you suffer from chronic pain, you can combine self-care and fitness to find relief. The trick is to find simple workouts that get your body moving while helping your mind feel calm.

Yoga is also a good choice here, but you can also try doing tai chi. This slow, intentional practice is especially effective for seniors looking to decrease pain symptoms and decrease their fall risk.

You can treat more than arthritis with exercise and self-care, though. Studies have also shown that regular physical activity can help Alzheimer’s patients, and exercise may even play a role in preventing this debilitating condition. Research around this is still limited, but one thing that’s for sure is that adults who exercise are less prone to other chronic health conditions. Heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers can all be prevented with the right fitness routine.

Help Yourself Age Well with Fitness and Self-Care

Older adults who are looking to stay in their best shape also need to factor self-care into the equation. Without self-care, you are leaving your body and mind vulnerable to the effects of chronic stress. Consistent levels of high stress can leave older adults struggling with heart disease, anxiety and other health issues. Staying active is a great way to care for your well-being, but you also need to make sure you are taking time to really enjoy life. Practicing daily mindfulness can help all adults live more fulfilling lives. Being mindful means taking time to pause and reflect on your life, and to be thankful for the things that make you happy. In between workouts, take a 15-minute break to meditate or to write down what you’re grateful for.

Physical fitness can go a long way in preserving your overall health, but it’s not the only wellness habit you should commit to for a better life. Finding ways to work self-care into your fitness routine and your everyday life can change your body and mind in many positive ways, so make time for more self-care, and keep working toward those health and fitness goals.


Sheila Olson has been a personal trainer for five years. She created FitSheila.com to spread the word about her fitness philosophy and encourage her clients to stay positive. She incorporates mindfulness and practices for reducing negative talk into her sessions.

 

References

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Why Suffer in Silence?

In America today, 40% of females, including women, children and teens, suffer in silence with either primary or secondary dysmenorrhea every month. Primary dysmenorrhea accompanies the monthly menstrual cycle without any underlying medical conditions. Secondary dysmenorrhea means that there is another medical issue present, such as endometriosis. This condition makes it hard to function, with most women being bedridden for three to five days or longer. Dysmenorrhea is not a weakness, but a real medical issue.

Generally, the female client will have severe throbbing pain from the waist down. They can feel it in their stomach, low back, legs and feet, making it hard to move. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, anxiety, stress, depression, lightheadedness, fatigue, headache, fever, and depression, weakness and fainting. Risk factors are smoking, obesity, being underweight, strong family history, high levels of stress, anxiety and/or depression. Women can still have painful stomach cramping well after menopause if they have Endometriosis.

This is a silent stressor for many women because they rarely choose to speak about it. Some have been living with the pain for twenty years or more and think there is nothing they can do. If a client comes to you and mentions that they have a lot of pain, urge them to see their doctor. This conversation is more likely to happen with a female personal trainer. The good news is that fitness professionals can help their clients to feel better during this painful time of the month.

It is important to acknowledge this painful condition because of the physical and mental implications that come along with it. As the trainer you, may be working with a therapist as well as an OB/GYN. You are trying to help your client feel better overall. We recommend scheduling an assessment first to understand the client’s medical history. As a fitness professional, you may want to refer your clients to other professionals as well. Acupuncture, for example, is well known for helping women to ease and reduce anxiety. When you network with other professionals, you form a referral system to obtain more clients for yourself, too.

After completing your assessment, you will develop a wellness program for your client. The program will include: exercise, meditation (specific to this condition), and aromatherapy, as well as other components. Try to have your client establish a regular daily wellness routine. Journaling is also important as it helps to connect your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Support groups can also help as women share their experiences with others.


Robyn Kade is the President/CEO of The Stress Management Institute for Health and Fitness Professionals™ and the SMI Business Institute™. Robyn received her Bachelor’s Degree from Rowan University in Health Promotion and Fitness Management. She is an American Council on Exercise (ACE) personal trainer and group fitness instructor, received a certificate in PTSD through the Kew Training Academy, and is a Compassion Fatigue Resiliency and Recovery – Educator. Robyn is also certified through the American College of Sports Medicine for Exercise Is Medicine (EIM) Level 1. Robyn is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Wellness and Lifestyle Management with a concentration on Wellness Coaching at Rowan University.


References

erasing-fear

Taking Fear from Foe to Friend

Step One: Acknowledge and Accept Fear  

Acknowledging and accepting your fear is the first step toward limiting its power over you. Acknowledgement requires you to admit that you have fears, and acceptance requires you to realize their power. Congratulations, you are human! We all have fears, but the ways they affect our lives depends on the relationship we choose to create with them.  

  • Don’t be a Denier. Deniers bury their fears so deeply that the fears often go unrealized, gaining an unknown power over the Denier. The danger is that at any moment, the Denier may be confronted by their formerly hidden fears, which seem to come out of nowhere, overwhelming the person’s thoughts, decisions, and actions. Just because you  deny them doesn’t mean they don’t exist. 
  • Don’t be a Pretender. Pretenders admit their fear, but rely on their ability to vanquish, destroy, eliminate, and ultimately control it. They live under the misguided belief that they can make fears disappear. The problem arises when the fear the Pretender thought was destroyed comes back with a vengeance at an inopportune time. As with the Denier, that re-emerged fear can affect thoughts, decisions, and actions, potentially  placing the person on the pathway to unwittingly forfeit their dreams.  

Once you acknowledge the existence of your fear and learn how to address it productively instead of fighting it, you reclaim some of your power over it.  

Step Two: Find Your Fear’s Origins  

  • Determine where your fear originates and gain a deeper understanding of yourself. Knowing “the why” is a power diffuser. Is your fear based in lack of self-worth, self-love, self-doubt, rejection, or feelings of failure, or trepidation of success? If so, where did  this emotional trigger come from? Examine the negative assumptions you are making  and determine their source. This could be a childhood experience, something someone  said that you internalized, or some other event that created a negative self-assessment, which in turn is creating a fear. Knowledge is power, and it places you on the pathway toward healing.  
  • Take action to heal your fears’ origins. Healing comes through loving yourself and  seeking a deeper and richer understand of your authentic core. In my book, Yes! Commit. Do. Live, I explain, your “passions, loves, talents, gifts, and desires, along with  your character values, all inform and empower you.” These elements form your inner core. So let your fears reveal more of this inner core and show you something important that you may not have recognized. For example, if you have a fear of public speaking, a deep dive into your inner core could unearth your talent for storytelling, listening, and  using empathy to connect with others. Nurturing those talents, which are all  components of a great public speaker, would empower you to meet your public  speaking fear. So, use that inner core power to meet and ultimately tame your fears.

Step Three: Focus on the Positive  

  • First, ask yourself what opportunities and adventures are now presented due to the fear  that has arisen. What possibilities for building new talents and skills are now open that were previously closed to you? Write them down and celebrate them as “what can be,” and then start envisioning them as “what is.” For example, that fear of public speaking could be preventing you from experiencing new opportunities in your career, family,  and friendships that could change your life. By focusing on the positive aspects of what  can be and the emotions that flow from that positive outlook, you shift your mindset away from negative thinking.  
  • Second, remember that negative thinking is often at the core of our fears. Without facts or evidence, we allow negative thoughts to paralyze us and convince us that  defeat/disaster is inevitable. By choosing to focus on the positive outcomes we can gain from facing the challenge, we gain power over negative thinking.  

As a state and federal prosecutor, I was afraid at the beginning of every trial. What if I didn’t succeed? What if I made a mistake? However, none of these fears were based on facts. By focusing on creating a positive outcome for the victim and empowering them through the trial  process, I could move forward through my fear. According to Andrew Newberg, M.D., and Mark  Robert Waldman in Words Can Change Your Brain: 12 Conversations Strategies to Build Trust,  Resolve Conflict, and Increase Intimacy, a single positive or negative word can actually alter our brains. There is neurological power in positive thinking, so the time is now to live in the  positive.  

Step Four: Transform the Feelings  

  • You can use your body’s responses to gain more control of your fears. What happens to you when fear arises? According to MedicalNewsToday, for some people, their limbs shake, their breathing becomes shallow, their mouths get dry, and their hearts race. While these reactions may on the surface seem negative, those physical manifestations  are tied to the excitement of the moment.  
  • Once you are aware of your fear responses, redefine them. Remember, there is power in positive-thought realignment. When I left the practice of law to begin a singing career, during my early musical auditions, I was confronted with the physical manifestations of fear. I had a choice. I could allow those manifestations to derail my singing career, or I could retrain my brain and body to create a new understanding of  what those manifestations represented. I chose the latter—and you can, too. Here’s  how: 

Redefine those manifestations and repeat the new definition continuously until they feel real.  Repeatedly tell yourself this new positive understanding:  

  • My body’s shake is the energy surge that fuels my excitement. 
    • My shallow breathing is my body’s signal to slow down and take in rich oxygen.
    • My rapid heart rate is my body’s preparation on a cellular level to ready me to  step into my excellence.

Visualize your success over your fear and allow the positive emotions that flow from that  success to flood your body, head to toe.  

Find your calm and peace the “DDB” way—engage in deep diaphragmatic breathing. At each fearful moment, use the 5-5-5-5 breathing pattern: Inhale for a count of five, hold for five, exhale for five, and repeat for five. This practice allowed me to stay present and focus on the beauty of the moment.  

Reset those feelings further by recording your successes and focusing on each time you were able to feel the fear and do it anyway. I allowed every positive audition to reinforce my new positive understanding of my body’s response to each exciting opportunity. This process of transference turns negative thinking positive.  

Step 5: Look at Fear as Your Friend and Celebrate It!  

Fear is an extension of ourselves. It moves us. It represents a chance for a beautiful life transition. Fear offers an opportunity for immense growth and introduces us to new and wonderful challenges. It can be a gateway to the most beautiful, exciting opportunities, helping  you to unleash talents and unearth new passions.  

By taking the preceding steps, you are able to tame your fears. Remember, fear is not a villain, so there is no need for an epic battle. Instead, fear requires a relationship with yourself. It is a welcomed companion, a catalyst for change to constantly challenge your status quo. So, the next time you feel fear, ask, “What opportunity lies on the other side?” Challenge yourself to live through it. Do what makes you shake! Do what makes you shy away! It may not  be easy, but it’s essential for continued breakthrough as you journey to your highest state of  excellence.  

When you’re willing to feel the fear and move forward anyway, you position yourself to truly  write your story, live your purpose, elevate your thoughts, visualize your success, and live a life  without regret and with passion, laughter, self-determination, and endless optimism.  

Join Lisa for her webinar, How to Take Your Fears from For to Friend


Lisa Charles is a federal prosecutor turned singer/actress, wellness expert, certified health coach/consultant, and an acclaimed speaker. She served as the Fitness/Wellness Research Coordinator for the Rutgers University Aging & Brain Health Alliance, and is the CEO of Embrace Your Fitness, LLC, and the Author of YES! COMMIT. DO. LIVE.

  • Join my email list at yescoachlisa.com
  • lisa@yescoachlisa.com
  • IG: @lisaembracefitness
brain-thoughts

Harness the Limitless Potential of Your Mind with Meditation

The mind is a powerful tool or weapon that can be used to work for us or against us. Everything begins with a thought. From the moment we wake up until laying our head on the pillow each night, our mind is consumed with thoughts; more than 60,000 a day by the time we reach age 40.

95% of those thoughts occur in the subconscious mind, making us unaware we have them or even what they are most of the time. Thoughts run on autopilot throughout the day unless we do the internal work to become aware of them and shift our thinking.

Awareness is the first step to reprogramming the mind with different thought patterns. Once we begin practicing a mindful lifestyle and becoming aware of the thought patterns that are regularly showing up in our lives, we can then learn and use tools to reprogram the mind to think differently. Think of it like this: the brain is the hardware, and our mind is the software, the software we use daily determines how we think, feel and react or respond to various situations.

The good news is, it is possible to “rewire the brain” a term referred to as neuroplasticity. The latest technology in science reveals that by creating new neural pathways in the brain, we are capable of rewiring neural pathways, creating new neurons that fire together which allows us to think and process differently, thus leading to less reactionary responses and more responding to our external environment.

The question is how do we do this if our mind is on autopilot and we are mostly unaware of our thoughts?

One answer is through the long-practiced method of meditation, a process of refocusing the mind. Meditation is a mental exercise that with practice trains the brain to think and process differently. It is through refocusing the mind to think about one thing and ultimately “no thing” that allows for us to tap into our subconscious mind and create new programming.

Often people say they cannot meditate or can’t calm their monkey mind. That is true for those who do not practice training it to be different. Being mentally fit is a practice that requires exercise, just as muscles do when training in the gym or recovering from a physical ailment. The mind must also be exercised and taught to think and react differently.

There are many different modalities to the practice of meditation, just as there are many workouts in the gym to become physically fit. It’s about exploring the types of modalities and finding one that works for you or your client. Mental resilience is built each time new neural connections are made, each time we go through a challenging time and overcome it, we become more mentally fit thus giving us resilience for the next time we face something hard.

Understanding how the brain works and how it pre-dispositioned to think negatively over positively, allows us to have compassion and patience with ourselves while learning to create a consistent routine of practicing meditation. Discovering the mind/body connection and how they work together also empowers us to be able to choose differently in situations where we become aware we are reacting from autopilot rather than choosing to respond.

Meditation is currently a $1 billion industry and is rapidly growing. Learning how to use meditation in your own life, while also learning how to instruct others through science-based, proven modalities expands your revenue offerings as well as helps clients heal faster and live happier lives.

Webinar with Briana Bragg

Join Briana for Re-booting the Mind/Body Connection for Empowered Living. This webinar will provide an overview of the mind/body connection with techniques to un-entangle from autopilot, and update our subconscious programming to live a happy, healthy, fulfilled life – while teaching your clients to do the same.


Briana Bragg is the founder of Vacation of the Mind®, a mental wellness company dedicated to helping one million people or more reduce stress, refocus the mind, and lead healthier and happier lifestyles through practical techniques of nature-centered mindfulness and meditation.  Briana is the author of “Journey into Tranquility®”, a meditation teacher training course that utilizes science-based methodologies of nature, meditation, and creative visualization in a three-step process Breathe, Refocus, Journey, curating guided journeys that connect people to nature and stillness. Briana’s dynamic energy and passion are fueled by her devotion to the well-being of others.

STRESS pencil

A Stress Management Plan for an Aging Population

April is National Stress Awareness Month!

Fortunately today, there are many tools to help individuals cope with stress. The first step is to acknowledge that you are stressed and to know what is stressing you. Once you are aware of your stressors, you need to make a stress management plan to follow. The journey may not be perfect but it is a work in progress. Most individuals aren’t going to know how to develop a plan or where to start. A trained individual such as a certified personal trainer can help to formulate the best plan for each client and make changes as the client achieves each milestone in the process.

As many as 20% of people experience depression in their later years

A stress management prescription is also needed for aging adults since the mind and body become slower to adaptations. The stress response lasts longer and seniors experience different symptoms then younger adults. Some key symptoms can be: crying, overeating, wounds taking longer to heal, heart palpitations, anxiety and depression. As a trainer, you will most likely be working with the client’s doctor who is treating them for these symptoms. There is a myriad of modalities that you can use to help your client drastically reduce their stress levels while they heal. As a fitness professional, incorporating meditation, exercise, yoga, Pilates, and many other techniques can help your client’s symptoms improve mentally and physically. The question is can we do more than telling clients to take a class? The answer to this question is an emphatic yes!

The causes of stress for this population are also different and depend on which decade in life they are in. Some examples are: loneliness, being institutionalized, fear of having enough money for retirement, loss of independence and many other causes. The problem is that many people can’t asses their own stress level and don’t know where to turn for answers. Chronic stress is harmful in many ways, but can be minimized once the individual becomes aware of their stress level and knows there are stress management professionals who can help.

Today, 53% of Baby Boomers are using complementary approaches to try and relieve stress and help with other conditions such as: anxiety, depression, chronic pain, stress, and hypertension. Complementary approaches are not limited to but include; exercise, nutrition, yoga, Pilates and Tai-Chi. Research conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health shows that meditation can help to relieve symptoms for example chronic pain. As a fitness professional it is important to realize that these modalities must be used in conjunction with conventional medicine.

When training clients, it is important to see them as a whole person through the dimensions of wellness. As people, we have many things going on mentally and physically that are very complex. A stress management plan helps to streamline what can work best for your client and their current needs. The plan can evolve and most likely will depending on what is going on in your client’s life at the time. When you can assess and classify your clients you then know which complimentary approaches will work better for them. This will in turn, will help to keep your client engaged and on track with their goals.


Robyn Kade is the Founder of The Stress Management Institute for Health and Fitness Professionals. She has 18 years of experience in medical based fitness. Become a Stress Management Exercise Specialist today!

 

References

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Five Ways to Build Immunity

A strong and healthy immune response can mitigate the effects of an infection. Boosting your immune system is the key to fending off illness when you get it or maybe avoiding it together. The best approach to maintain your immune system is to adopt a healthy lifestyle. 

While bolstering your immunity is easier said than done, several dietary and lifestyle changes may strengthen your body’s natural defenses and help you fight harmful pathogens or disease-causing organisms. Some of them are below.

Sleep In

Yes! Lack of sleep can make you sick. Sleep deprivation is linked to a higher susceptibility to sickness. During sleep, the immune system releases cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Cytokines are also needed to fight against infection, inflammation and ward off stress. Sleep deprivation leads to a reduction in antibodies and cells necessary to fight infection. According to Mayo Clinic, adults should aim to get seven or more hours of sleep each night, while teens need 8–10 hours and younger children and infants up to 14 hours. Keeping a stable sleep schedule, making your bedroom comfortable and free of disruptions, following a relaxing pre-bed routine, and building healthy habits during the day can all contribute to excellent sleep hygiene.

Consume Whole Foods

A healthy diet gives your body the essential nutrients to fight off germs. Whole plant foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes are rich in micro-nutrients and antioxidants. There is a wealth of evidence that suggests that what we eat matters. The antioxidants in plants can help decrease inflammation by battling free radicals. The fiber consumed from plant foods increases your gut microbiome. A robust gut microbiome is essential for a stronger immune system.

Don’t Be Afraid of Healthy Fats

It is vital to consume healthy fats to receive positive advantages for our immune health. Healthy fats help reduce inflammation and fight infections.  Many plant-based foods are rich in fatty acids, linoleic, and alpha-linolenic acid, with an optimal omega-3/omega-6 ratio. Some examples include; hemp seeds, walnuts, chia seeds, dark leafy greens, spinach, arugula, and romaine. Eating healthy fats will provide the body with the energy and essential fatty acids to optimize immune function. 

Get in Moderate Exercise

It’s true that exercise increases your immunity to certain illnesses. Research shows that frequent exercise reduces systemic inflammatory activity and improves aspects of immune function, leading to alterations in an aging immune system’s classical biomarkers. Examples of exercise include 30-minutes a day of brisk walking, hiking, a dance class, and cycling. So, wherever you are, get moving now.

Reduce Stress

According to the Mayo Clinic, the stress hormone cortisol can subdue your immune system. While it might be impractical to let go of stress completely, managing stress in a healthy way is possible. Creating some white space in your day and meditating can help with stress. Meditation lowers your heart rate and blood pressure and reduces anxiety. Watching a funny show or just laughing with friends and family is a great way to relieve stress. 

Our bodies are regularly exposed to invaders and toxins like mutated cells, bacteria, and viruses. We can make changes in our lifestyle to toughen our immune system. Including exercise, consuming a healthy diet, meditating, and practicing good sleep hygiene can go a long way to protect us from illnesses and strengthen our immune system. It might seem a lot to do right off the bat but making small changes can go a long way. Keep adding these lifestyle changes to your routine until they become a habit. Soon you will have a robust immune system to guard you against diseases.


Aesha is the founder and head coach at Tone and Strengthen. She holds a Master’s in Exercise Science from Concordia University and has earned multiple credentials from the National Academy of Sports Medicine, Athletics and Fitness Association of America, and other NCCA accredited fitness associations. Aesha is a Master Instructor for MadDogg Athletics, Spinning® program and offers FREE workouts and healthy lifestyle tips on the Tone and Strengthen’s IG page