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FFC Oak Park spa manager Jason VonGerichten shares the effects of stress on the body and stress management tips, including strategies like massage for stress relief, among others. Check out the research and tips below!

When discussing the stress response, I would often tell my students that their bodies are like the Starship Enterprise.

Stay with me.

When the Enterprise was in a battle and they were taking some hits, Captain Kirk would inevitably say:

“Scotty, put. all. power. to. the. forward. shields!”

And Scotty would unplug the microwave (or whatever) in order to divert all extra power to their forward shields so they could get that final photon torpedo into the Klingons.

Our bodies do something similar.

Effects of Stress On The Body

When we’re faced with stressful conditions our sympathetic nervous system – the “fight or flight” response – is activated, and all power is diverted away from any unnecessary functions. Due to the effects of stress, blood flow is diverted away from our digestive system so we can get more oxygen to the muscles needed to run, many maintenance hormones and mucus production stop secreting, our immune system shuts down, and adrenaline and cortisol are dumped into the bloodstream to give us an extra boost of energy and strength.

And all of this is great… if we are indeed faced with a physical threat. But how often are we actually facing off with a bear in the woods? What do we usually get stressed about?

Office politics. Income taxes. Mortgage rates. Personal relationships.

Can we defend ourselves against these emotional things with a physical response?

We cannot. And in fact, we end up damaging our bodies from this response, because we don’t feel the effects of stress about the next election for five minutes, we feel it every day for the next two years, and our physical bodies have yet to find a pre-programmed response to this type of emotional stressor.

So, we divert blood flow from our digestive system and we get constipated or diuretic. We stop secreting growth hormone and we don’t repair damaged tissue as quickly. Less mucus in our stomachs means there’s no protection from stomach acid (hello ulcers!). We get sick easier without an immune system functioning, and a constant drip of adrenaline and cortisol means damage to our circulatory system and higher levels of glucose in the blood. You can stress yourself into type 2 diabetes!

So what do we do?

It’s easy to tell someone to just relax to combat the effects of stress, but unfortunately, it’s not always that simple. In fact, I don’t know if you know this, but telling somebody who is upset to calm down often has the opposite effect, and all of that person’s non-calmness then gets directed at the person offering advice.

Related: mindfulness could help! Here’s some best tips for practicing mindfulness.

Luckily, our bodies have two built-in systems we can manipulate to activate our parasympathetic nervous system – our “rest and digest” functions.

One of those systems? Breathing. You do not have to get in touch with the divine. You don’t even have to meditate. Just breathe, and breathe deeply. By activating your diaphragm, that big muscle under your lungs, your body gets the signal that you are in a restive state, even if you’re not, and then the rest of the body follows suit. It’s been said you can add years to your life by just breathing deeply a few minutes every day.

Massage for Stress Relief

Massage is the second thing we can do. Our bodies are built to be social creatures, and in the age of online communications it’s more important than ever to find ways to incorporate healthy, healing touch into our lives. Massage for stress relief is a great approach. Aside from all the benefits to your musculature, a simple sense of touch begins the release of dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin in your brain. Those are all, in this case, feel-good neurotransmitters, mood elevators, and stress relievers.

Related: did you know that massage can also be a great solution to help with Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Study after study has shown that children who are consistently given loving touch from their parents grow up to be stronger and less sickly, and elderly people whose partners have passed are less healthy because of the lack of loving touch.

Do yourself a favor. Live long and prosper by breathing deeply and getting a regular massage for stress relief.

Post written by FFC Oak Park spa manager Jason VonGerichten.

Hey, did you know FFC offers massage? Set phasers to deep tissue! Use your communicator to give us a call and book an appointment. Have more questions for Jason or want to set up a complimentary consultation? Email him at jvongerichten@ffc.com!

Jason VonGerichten is the spa manager at FFC In Oak Park. He is a husband, massage therapist, pug enthusiast, and his first book, Welcome to Uranus, is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Google Play.

Foundations are the beginning of all things, whether it be the first day of a new job, or training for the Chicago marathon. Present within these foundations is transformation, such as rain becoming snow. Thoughts transform into our attitudes and mindsets and eventually become our personal philosophies. Many philosophies have roots in ancient history, such as yin and yang, which comes from observing nature. Observation is the most accessible skill we have. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), is based greatly upon this – nature being of the most important (which includes us). Here’s a basic introduction to the philosophy and why you should balance your yin and yang.

In its purest form, observation derives itself from contentment and passiveness (baring in mind, though, that passiveness does not necessarily mean without action). An action can be as simple as a thought or internal response, whether that be a change in breathing, energy level, relaxed to tense, or just warm to cool. There can be an effect without an affect.

Yin and Yang Philosophy

Yin/yang philosophy began with the book Tao Te Ching, by the philosopher Lao Tsu (6th c. BC) . ‘Dualism’ is the core of yin/yang as, ‘one defining the other’. For instance, a sense of relaxation represents yin, while tense represents yang. Slower breathing represents yin, while faster breathing represents the idea of yang. Cool is more yin, while warm is more yang. A yoga pose like downward dog is very yin, while performing a deadlift is more yang.

The moon shines brightest on a dark night, while the sun is brightest during a winter day.

Our observations are intertwined in our daily lives, as well as over the span of a lifetime. Embracing the elements around us as being different, as much as they are the same, is key to grasping how they overlap and become whole. Balance is harmony and imbalance is disharmony. Yin is the heavier, darker side, while yang represents the lighter side. Yin is the moon and yang the sun. Yin reaches for the earth, as in yoga, while yang reaches for the sky, as in lifting weights. A yin personality may enjoy evening yoga classes, while a yang personality may wake up bright-eyed, ready for a workout. Yin can be calmer, quiet, and even shy – while yang is loud, high energy and outgoing. In harmony, yin and yang are balanced, and we are at our best.

Related: how to recover from burnout by getting back to the basics.

If we find ourselves sluggish and tired, we may need a yang influence in our daily activities. Conversely, we may need more yin-influenced relaxation to balance the excitement of yang. Yoga is great for relaxation, and if lacking energy, a higher intensity “yang” workout may be helpful, like a spin class. These aspects of yin and yang are just microcosms of a much larger system. The basics of yin and yang are effortless and lead to a path of self observation. Nurture balance in your life.

Post written by Jessica Heffernan, FFC Park Ridge massage therapist.

About Jessica

Jessica Heffernan, LMT, CP-AOBTA, believes that the most beneficial massage is customize for your workout goals. As a certified practitioner of Asian Bodywork, her goal is to restore and maintain the balance of yin and yang of her clients. Want to set up a consultation or experience the benefits of restorative, balancing massage? Email Jessica at jheffernan@ffc.com!

Everyone feels run down, overworked, and just plain depleted at one time or another. Getting back to a wellness baseline with your weekly schedule will keep you feeling your best and ready to take on all that life throws your way. Here are a few tips on how to recover from burnout by getting back to the basics.

What Are the “Basics”?

The main areas I focus on when I’m feeling depleted include:

  • Quality sleep
  • Nutritious meals
  • Self-care
  • Journaling
  • Connecting with others

While these seem like pretty tangible goals to maintain at the surface, these basic elements for a happy and healthy you are usually the first and easiest things to push to the backburner when our calendars are full to the brim day after day.

What’s a Personal Baseline?

What is your personal baseline you may ask? With this term, I’m referring to the point where you feel stable, secure, nourished & calm so that you can go out and be the best you while you are fulfilling all of your commitments to others and working towards your personal goals.

As an example, I feel my best when I eat healthy meals regularly, sleep at least 8 hours (even if 2 are just lying in bed & not actual sleep), working out in some capacity, (yoga, walking, Zumba), have a clean house, and a plan in place for the upcoming week. Everything on top of that, such as social events or fitting in a squeeze from my nephews are just icing on the cake.

That may sound like a lot, but if I have missed a workout due to a social event or grabbed a meal on the fly it won’t throw me off. However, if I have eaten crappy for a few days, had a few bad nights of sleep, come home to a messy house, haven’t seen anyone outside of work in a few days AND missed my daily work out then I will most likely be feeling frazzled – which will snowball into missed meetings, tardiness, forgetfulness and crankiness.

Taking time to check in with yourself to make sure your baseline needs are being met is a great way to ensure you are being the best version of yourself when you step into the world.

How to Make a Plan to Recover from Burnout (Or Prevent Burnout in the First Place)

  • Whether you work 9-5, 11-7 or nights and weekends, pick an afternoon or evening to map out your week so you can see when & where you need to be.
  • Plan for your meals as much as you can, and work towards cooking as many as possible.
  • Add exercise as an event on your calendar and aim for 30 more minutes and 1 more day a week then you currently at.
  • Pencil in some you time to journal, take a long bath; paint your nails or do something that allows you to check in with your mind, body & soul.
  • Connect with others either during one of the meals or on a walk.

Just like anything else, the more you practice the things that make you a happier you, the easier it becomes to make them fit in naturally to your day to day life.

Life Hacks to Preventing Burnout from a Busy Chick

Okay, so you may have a plan, but implementing it is a whole different story. Time and money seem to be the 2 biggest roadblocks people will bring us as to why they don’t take time for cooking, exercise and self-care. Remember, everyone has the same 24 hours in a day that you do – so make the most of the time you have. Here are a few tips for how to do that in each of the sections I mentioned above.

Nutrition & meal prep tips:

  • Wash & chop veggies for easy go to salads, hard boil eggs for protein on the go.
  • Make a big batch of soup for an easy lunch or dinner throughout the week.
  • Use a crockpot – the best invention ever for quick easy home cooked meals.

Related: need more meal prep tips? These hacks will help ensure you can actually stick to your meal prep routine!

Fitting in fitness tips:

  • Get up 30 minutes earlier OR skip TV after dinner & go on a brisk walk, jog or run.
  • Meet a friend for a workout instead of a meal – try a new class together through Groupon or Class Pass if they are offered in your area.
  • Plan to walk on your lunch break – even 10 minutes will be a great addition to your day.

Self-care tips:

  • Schedule it like you would any other important meeting, and don’t blow yourself off.
  • Look for fun ways to try something new for free. Sephora offers makeup classes regularly & local park districts often provide free or low cost events and classes.
  • Unplug everything. I mean it – start to unplug 30 minutes before bed, not looking at a screen of any kind… I bet you will fall asleep faster!

Related: insanely simple ways to practice more mindfulness in your everyday life.

Understanding Benefits of Routine

As I delve deeper into my own self-study, I have become fascinated with many different ideas and teaching, one in particular is Samskara. Yogic philosophy teaches that we are all born with a set of mental & emotional patterns that we cycle through over and over throughout the duration of our lives. These ideas and actions together create our conditioning. When repeated over and over a sort of groove is formed which can be hard to break away from. These grooves can be positive, negative, or somewhere in between. The most important factor is being aware of them, and understanding that they can be changed: you can always break an old pattern and create a new groove in your life.

Think of your morning routine, for me it involves brewing a cup of coffee – hearing the grinder, smelling it brew, and enjoying a hot mug before interacting with anyone else. I’m aware of this groove, I enjoy it and I am not trying to break it at this time.

As an example on the other side of the spectrum, when fall turn into winter and the days get shorter, my groove is to get a little mopey and blue. I exchange tea for wine and salad for carbs. A little of this is just going with the seasonal flow, but when I find myself falling out of my good habits that I worked hard to create, I make sure to get back into the positive groove(s) I created.

Why This is Important

I am a strong believer that knowledge is power, and even though most of this is basic stuff, it can be helpful for people to read what others do for wellness and to recover from burnout and keep the wheels turning in their lives, so I am sharing what I have found useful with you. Please join me in a class, I would love to be a part of your yoga journey!

About Janet

After a series of stressful sales jobs, I was searching for an outlet that would challenge my body and quiet my mind. Hours of driving, phone calls, and paperwork were leaving me stressed out and frazzled. Yoga became that outlet, and ultimately a way of life.

While the physical postures challenged my body, I learned that the calming effect(s) yoga has on my mind allow me to approach life differently. In my quest to deepen my understanding of this mind/body connection that yoga offers, I journeyed to Nicaragua where I studied with Master Trainer Meghan Currie. Since then I have been sharing my love yoga with others. My teaching style is upbeat and approachable, making all feel welcome.

In addition to studio classes, I offer private sessions for those looking to delve deeper into the physical aspect of yoga, and am continue to teach at retreats worldwide. Have questions? Email me at jctkeogh@gmail.com.

Post written by FFC Group Exercise Instructor Janet Keogh.

 

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5 simple tips to recover from burnout & other wellness tips from FFC group fitness instructor

Every year, come about April or May, we see that the resolutions we set for the “new us” during the beginning of the year are basically crumbling because of our lack of focus and discipline. First of all, don’t be hard on yourself, WE ARE NOT PERFECT! This time, I want you to focus on taking steps to be the best version of yourself, instead of trying to set unrealistic expectations.

How to Be the Best Version of Yourself

Now, I do believe in pushing yourself to reach the goals you set this year, but make sure those goals align with your own personal growth. You are your biggest competitor; push yourself to be better than you were the day before. Every year we fill our list up with the usual resolutions (for instance, lose more weight, work out more, eat healthier, etc.).

All of those things are important to our physical state of health, however, we tend to forget about resolutions that will contribute to our mental health. So this year add more “ME TIME” to your list. Sometimes, we work so hard managing our day to day lives that we never make time to really unwind and relax. Of course, everyone has their own ideas of what “me time” may actually consist of, but here are some non-negotiables that I believe should be on your list:

More time and activities for relaxation.

We need to make time to mentally check out from our busy lives and give our bodies a chance to rest. You can do this by cutting time out of your schedule to book a facial to feel refreshed and energized after a workout, or even a deep tissue massage to work out those knots and kinks you might have from sitting at your desk at work all day. Making time for the things that bring you fulfillment.

UNPLUG!!

We need to cut our screen time in half! Try to monitor the time you spend watching tv or scrolling through your social media timelines.

Being aware of the state of your mental health.

Your mental health is just as important as you physical health. Sometimes days can get hard and things and get stressful, so this year let’s focus on how to turn those lemons into lemonade. Try getting a journal to write down your ideas, goals, or whatever comes to mind or cutting at least 5 minutes a couple of times out of your day for meditation. Meditation is the key to clarity – those moments of solitude and stillness can fill you with so much inner peace and ease.

Related: want to start practicing mindfulness and meditation but don’t know how? Here are some easy tips to follow!

Adding affirmations to your life.

Affirmations are used to train our subconscious mind to believe things about ourselves and create the reality we want. This is also called the law of attraction – the idea of your thoughts becoming things. The energy you put into the universe, you shall receive. When you see your mind indulging in the negativity, your more than likely to experience some sort of negativity in your life. Affirmations keep us mentally disciplined and focused.

They key to writing effective affirmations is making sure that they are written in first person, that they are positive, emotionally charged, and in a present state. So for a example, “I am healthy and strong, I love when my body feels energized and renewed when I make healthy choices.

Keep those things in mind when creating your own personal affirmations for yourself this year. Feel free to change them weekly, monthly, yearly, etc. Do whatever you feel is best for you!

Our future is filled with so much promise, let’s take advantage of it! Here’s to personal growth and development!

Post written by FFC contributor.

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