Are you already feeling the strain of “return-to- normal” and “return-to-office”? Is traffic or seeing more people again filling you with dread? Are you forgetting simple instructions or repeatedly losing items?
You are not alone.
In fact, we are seeing evidence of strain—even in our own Alexandria Wellness community—with our members noticing they are:
- Becoming more easily flustered—snapping at kids or partner, or WANTING to
- Losing items like phone, keys and sunglasses
- Experiencing injury more often—or aches and pains becoming more prominent
- Feeling less able to cope with everyday challenges
- Struggling to follow our training programs!
Last week we sent a note to our own AW community about the level of stress even WE are seeing among our family here at AW. Not only did it strike a chord with many of our very-much-in-tune-with-their-stress-levels community members, but the message that their stress was more palpable now than 16+ months ago was a wake-up call. For so long they felt confident that their wellness was superior due to the 2 to 5 times per week conversations about wellness issues within our community. Yet, it is even impacting them.
Let’s play this out…
“Jasmine” (a combination of the backgrounds of our community) has been a member of Alexandria Wellness from the start in 2019. In fact, she joined the concierge wellness program with me soon after it launched. She developed a keen awareness of how her daily stressors were impacting her happiness and her waistline. She is more educated on the tools she can use to manage it.
However, even Jasmine is feeling the “heat” of the return-to-work environment. She has more evening events, more scheduled meetings in-person, and now is always “on the go” as soon as her day starts. Her kids’ activities have picked up, and it feels almost shocking to her system. Her time for self-care feels limited, she can tell she isn’t breathing deeply most of the day, and the stress is impacting her ability to respond to “the little things”.
She is not getting her time for meal planning nor her regular 4-times per week small group fitness sessions. She is spending more time in the car than she’d wish. She is forgetting small things like car keys and instructions from her children’s school. AND she’s already feeling bloated from eating on the run! Yikes.
So, what is really happening with Jasmine and many others, possibly you?
When we experience (physical and) mental or emotional stress, our body responds with a chain of events to prevent it from harming us. It releases cortisol, our “fight or flight” hormone, to help the body respond to a perceived threat, control blood pressure, and reduce inflammation. This chain of events also leads the body to decrease insulin secretion. Without the proper release of insulin, more sugar remains in the bloodstream and blood sugar levels become imbalanced (Hello, weight gain!)
So now you can better understand the PHYSICAL effects of MENTAL and EMOTIONAL stress. Even though we cannot see it, it is happening underneath our skin. Yes, even though you are not eating Snickers Bars and sitting on your couch every night (in fact you may even be over-exercising), you are gaining weight.
When we experience stress like we are all feeling right now—after all, we lived through a global Pandemic—we have a shorter bandwidth for some of the most common activities.
Other than weight gain, which tends to be the top of my community’s concern, other common signs are:
- Our breathing is strained or stops
- We mouth breathe
- We get more frequent headaches
- We clench our jaw and/or fists
- We experience digestion, “unhealthy” poop, or stomach issues
- We lack motivation to exercise
- We overeat for a host of reasons, like we want a “reward”, or we want to gain a small pleasure in our day, etc., etc.…
- We can’t sleep
- We have a short fuse
- We forget simple things
- We lose common items like our keys, phone and (sun)glasses
- We lose track of where we are going when driving
- We lose our car in parking lots
- We wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get thoughts or worries out of our head
- We feel angry at team members for ‘not doing what they should be doing’ more often
- We are feeling “busy” all of the time
Our brains are not hard-wired for chronic stress. They are built for high levels of activity in the morning and midday, then the remainder of the day is meant to begin to slow down for the most important part of our day: SLEEP.
I have watched so many amazing individuals struggle with their health, wellness and satisfaction with their bodies despite 2, 3, or 5 workouts per week and watching their “diets”. I was so convinced stress is at the core of all health and wellness challenges that 2 years ago I closed a thriving fitness business, Fitness on the Run. I knew it was a HUGE risk, yet I couldn’t authentically own a fitness-only business.
Now, more than ever, I am certain. I see our community struggling.
- I personally have seen corporate clients feel the struggle of “burnout” and “zoom fatigue” while proving to their organizations they are working from home.
- I have met with dozens of concierge clients who are addressing other strategies like food and who may be increasing their exercise (some 5-fold), yet they are still not reaching their ultimate goal of feeling better in their clothes.
- Every day Lis and I see long-time clients struggle with exercises we taught them two years ago.
How can you take a step back and develop the right tools for you to journey through this transition feeling as healthy and well as you possibly can?
First of all, this is the time to be kind to ourselves. We need to work with smaller bites of information at a time. We need to schedule more reminders, and simply put less on our plates (and I don’t mean the ones in our kitchen.)
Second, we need to make things simpler and smaller. Try to get less done. Although the AW community has concluded that planning for the week in advance is the key to the success of their wellness stories, now may be the time to scale-back and plan for the day instead of the week.
Last week I featured an article about re-framing our stress. When we tell ourselves stories like “I’ll never _____” or “She will not like me,” we are forecasting and telling ourselves a story. It may or may not be true. Re-framing is a key step toward stress resilience.
Other tools that cost nothing and can be accomplished in 30 seconds are:
- Practicing gratitude
- Developing a workable mindfulness practice
- Learning how to breathe for stress resilience
- Listening deeply in conversation – not “fixing”
- Aligning your calendar with your core values
As always, we are grateful for your support for Alexandria Wellness and appreciate you sharing this newsletter with an organization or individual seeking holistic wellness. You can reach us at 844-709-WELL!