Monday Medical: Creating a wellness toolbox | SteamboatToday.com

Monday Medical: Creating a wellness toolbox


Susan Cunningham
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Stressed out by the busy holiday season? Then consider putting together your very own wellness toolbox to help lessen stress and up the holiday cheer.

Below, Lisa Bankard, employee well-being program manager for UCHealth, gives examples of what a wellness toolbox might include.

Sneakers, a yoga mat, mittens

Our bodies were made to move, and staying active helps us relieve stress. Even mild exercise can release endorphins, the feel-good hormones, while helping counteract the barrage of holiday treats.

Find an activity you enjoy, whether that’s walking around the neighborhood, doing a simple yoga routine or sweating hard at a local spin class, and then make it as easy as possible to do it.

“Make sure you have the right equipment to be able to exercise,” Bankard said. “If you like going to the gym, always have your gym bag packed, so at a moment’s notice, you can grab it and go.”

A social calendar that works for you

We’re wired to have relationships, and for many, the holidays bring a flurry of events with coworkers, family and friends. But pay attention to which social events rejuvenate you.

“There’s such an emphasis during the holidays on getting together with people,” Bankard said. “However, it may be overwhelming for some people. Be sure to consider what level of social connection works for you.”

That might mean turning down a party or cutting a family visit short, and making time to relax at home with a good book or bubble bath.

A gratitude journal

Writing down a few things you’re thankful for each day may seem like something small, but it actually has a big impact on how you feel. That positive impact on your emotional well-being benefits your physical health as well.

“There’s this nice chemical release when you focus on the positive, even for a few minutes,” Bankard said. “Expressing gratitude creates a shift in your beliefs and mindset, which transforms your actions and outcomes.”

A relaxing soundtrack and scented candles

Never underestimate the power of a good song or a fragrant scent. Both can give you a sense of calm and peace and can help decrease stress.

A mindful coloring book

Research has shown that coloring is not just for kids — it can have a profound impact on adult brains, too.

“It relaxes the part of the brain that’s activated when you’re stressed or frightened,” Bankard said. “And it helps you focus on the present and block out negative thoughts.”

If coloring isn’t your thing, try another type of art or take up a hobby that requires your full attention.

For Bankard, that’s horseback riding. “When I’m riding, I need to be fully present and not distracted,” Bankard said. “It’s so stress-relieving to be able to block out everything else.”

Healthy snacks

You know the holiday drill — there will be lots of tasty, rich treats to choose from. And while it’s not bad to indulge, it’s important to eat healthfully most of the time.

“I work hard to make sure I always have healthy trail mix and a bottle of water with me,” Bankard said. “You want to make things convenient, easy to grab.”

What to leave out? Your phone

Cellphones are incredibly useful, but they can also increase stress. “Put your phone away while you’re walking,” Bankard said. “Avoid technology for an hour before bed and for the first hour after you wake up. Give yourself time every day to not be connected.”

Make your wellness toolbox your own — and then be sure to use it.

“The holidays can be a stressful time. There are expectations, financial and social pressures and the feeling that you have to be happy because it’s the holidays,” Bankard said. “These tools can help you feel good physically and mentally. And that’s helpful for the entire year.”

Susan Cunningham writes for UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at cunninghamsbc@gmail.com.


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