Monday, September 27, 2010

Work-it Out

Appointments! Laundry! E-mails! Text messages! Hold on a second, my cell phone's ringing! No wonder we stumble around all day, dazed and confused and have the look of exhaustion at the end of each day. All of this “noise” can make life stressful and trying to find time everyday to tune it out is key, even if it is for only 30 minutes.

When I am stressed and overwhelmed, I turn to my activities that help me get that feeling good and satisfaction feeling inside. In this crazy busy life we live, it is extremely important to find ways to reduce stress and do things that make us feel good. You know the feeling, where you are upbeat, smiling inside, and have that extra kick in your step- that feeling good feeling. I absolutely love that feeling and try to get it every day. For me, my favorite outlets are working out, reading, blogging and listening to my favorite songs while cleaning. Whatever your stress reducers may be, it is so important for you to really enjoy them and find time daily if possible for one at least one of them. You deserve it and owe it to yourself.

Working out is my number one stress reducer. For those who know me, they know how much I am a cardio junky. There is nothing more satisfying after I finish a workout than hear my heart beating hard against my chest and sweat pouring out of me. I am not ashamed or embarrassed to be a sweaty mess at a gym or outdoors, I actually take pride in it.  When I really am stressed and need to unwind, I try to give myself a workout challenge. It is so easy to get into a rut and a routine so I try to spice up my workouts so I don’t hit a plateau. When my endorphins are high and my mind is focused on my workout, all the built up stress seems to disappear or pour out of me.

Before the start of this month, I set myself a new goal: attend a workout class. I knew that if I didn’t push myself to make this goal then I would never step up to the plate and actually go through with it. But I did my goal and tried two classes.

My first workout class that I decided to take was completely spontaneous. Over a dozen women were standing outside of the main workout studio to enter into a class; some were my age and some even older, I didn’t have anywhere to be so I thought why not? The class was a cardio sculpt class and the class description didn’t sound too intense. Within five minutes I was taking back my words. My instructor literally kicked my butt, thighs, arms, and hearts butt all the while rocking out to music. She made us do jumping jacks, lunges, lift weights, burpies and so much more. I even contemplated walking out of the class halfway through. Trying a new class does not count if you leave before it is over and I was proud of myself that I stayed. Seeing other people in my class lifting more weight than me and taking less breaks instantly motivated me to want to be at their level and start coming regularly. After the class finished, I was exhausted but feeling that internal “high.” I had forgotten how amazing I felt after doing a workout class and I was PUMPED!

The next class I tried was Zumba. As a former jazz, tap and ballet dancer (from age 4 to 10), I thought this class would be a great opportunity for me to get back into my dance groove. The class was absolutely packed. The first song played was an African infused tribal song. I had never danced to this sort of music before and I was immediately hooked into the class. For an entire hour we danced to African, Latin, Rap, and Techno music. During the hour long class, I was unfortunately in the back of the room trying to mimic the moves of the attendees in front of me since I couldn’t see my instructor. Needless-to-say I looked like I had never danced a day in my life for the majority of the class. I was turning, twisting, jumping and stepping opposite or “off-beat” compared to everyone else and basically making a fool of myself. Instead of getting all embarrassed and uncomfortable, I owned it and danced with confidence. This was MY challenge after all and I was proud of myself for trying something new. These classes are my new way of what I call “working-it-out.” I workout my stress, feelings, and thoughts and boy does it make me feel good every time.
But isn’t it sad sometimes how easily we are distracted and preoccupied, even when we are doing activities we enjoy and love? No matter what time of the day, our minds are busy digesting and analyzing the day’s events with no set timer on when to slow down. That is why having stress reducing outlets are so necessary- it forces us to make time to slow down. We need outlets in our daily lives so that we can be balanced and not explode. Taming my stress helps me stay stable and without my outlets I don’t know how I would survive. Sometimes we need to decompress and sort through our thoughts and emotions so that we don’t feel overwhelmed and finding ways that help you “work-it-out” will help you be strong and ready for tomorrow.

How do you reduce your stress? What gives you that internal “high?” Is it curling up on the couch with a good book? Is it listening to your new playlist while running outside? Whatever your outlet may be, make it yours and be in the moment.

"Being in control of your life and having realistic expectations about your day-to-day challenges are the keys to stress management, which is perhaps the most important ingredient to living a happy, healthy and rewarding life." -Marilu Henner

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