“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”
– Philo of Alexandria
I can’t put my finger on one particular reason, but it seems so many people in my life – family, friends, colleagues, even workout buddies – have been dealing with a serious case of the winter blues.
Maybe it’s because this was the first really dreary winter we’ve experienced (at least here in the Northeast) for several years. Maybe it’s because of all the anger and divisiveness circulating on a daily basis on social media. Most recently, it could most likely be attributed to our nation reeling in the aftermath of yet another unfathomable tragedy at another school.
On a personal note, I can say the winter of 2018 has been one of the most difficult on the emotional front in recent history. I have been waging a daily battle with anxiety over my aging parents; the uncertain path of my career and witnessing some of my dearest friends trying to make the best of some seriously difficult situations. I guess it boils down to this being the first time I can honestly say I’ve been afraid in a long time.
That being said, there’s a new month on the horizon with the promise of better days- and definitely better weather- ahead. In the meantime, I continue to do the one thing that gives me a sense of strength even if it’s for only an hour amidst an otherwise “scary” day: exercise. For anyone out there struggling with your own difficulties as we trudge through 2018, I encourage you to find one activity that gives you peace. If you’re like me, that could mean unleashing your fears by hitting and kicking a heavy bag with all your might. For others, it could mean taking a power walk or spending ten minutes meditating, praying or reading a book.
I realize this is another of those slight diversions from my usual posts. Then again, maybe it’s not. For the past six years, this blog has been an outlet for me to cope with some of the big happenings in this crazy ride we call life. I thank all my readers for supporting me when I need to shake some of the cobwebs out of my mind. If you’ve been struggling with the blues this season for one or a variety of reasons, I hope you find comfort knowing you’re most definitely not alone. Even those who appear to be the strongest among us have their dark days. (Which is why I started today’s post with one of my favorite quotes.) So as we make our way through this last Motivation Monday of February, let’s all find strength knowing there’s a sunnier spring ahead for all of us – and plenty of new chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Each year at this time, Daylight Saving offers what I consider to be a double-edged sword. Our days are filled with more minutes of sunlight as the winter winds down. However, as most of us set our clocks ahead before turning in on Saturday night, we lost an hour of sleep. So on this drowsy Motivation Monday, instead of offering a boost to prep your veggies or stretch more often, I encourage you to take stock of something that’s crucial to our overall health but often overlooked: your sleep habits.
Why do we need sleep? Research shows along with helping us stay energized, sleep helps regulate our mood and learn and retain valuable information. There are even studies out there linking inadequate sleep to weight gain. On a personal note, when I rack up too many consecutive nights without enough shut-eye, it’s harder to concentrate on everything from my work to my workouts and I definitely get more annoyed by the little things that usually roll off my back.
Here are some ideas for incorporating those all-important zzzz’s into your healthy routine:
- Exercise: Physical activity can help you sleep. However, if I exercise less than two hours before going to bed, the endorphins keep me up. Aim to wrap a workout three hours before bedtime.
- Alcohol: Anyone who’s read this blog for some time knows I enjoy a glass of wine to unwind at the end of the day. However, too much alcohol can have the opposite effect of calming the nerves and end up wrecking your night. Of course, having a hangover the next day after too many libations is never a good thing.
- Caffeine: I have some friends who can have a cup of coffee after dinner at 8 pm and still fall asleep at 10:30 pm. If I have caffeine after 3 pm, I’m looking at a rough night ahead. The key is to pay attention to how your body reacts. Make sure you check for “hidden” caffeine in things like herbal teas and chocolate.
- Hunger: The bottom line is you don’t want to go to bed hungry, but you don’t want to be too full either. I try not to snack at night after dinner, but if I do, I go for a single-serve bag of 94% fat-free popcorn, a skinny cow fudge pop or a few clementines or mandarins. Frozen grapes are great for taming those sweet cravings, too.
- Stress: This is something I am constantly trying to manage a little better. One thing that’s helped the past few months is writing down all the things I have to do the next day before getting into bed. Whether it’s Physique57 class, conference calls, deadlines or things I need at the grocery store, it helps to have it all out in front of me and then I can unwind.
- Shutting Down: If you scan the Internet, you’ll find plenty of research on how watching TV in bed and using smart phones and other portable devices can be overstimulating when your body is trying to wind down. Aim to power down at least 30 minutes before closing those tired eyes for the night.
Remember, if you’ve made the commitment to workout and watch what you eat, you owe it to yourself to give your body time to rest and recharge. It’s all part of the winning formula to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!