Recently at a general physical with a primary physician I was told that I need to find some “me” time, some relaxing activities to integrate daily in order to decrease my levels of stress. t Just hearing that made me even more stressed! What do you mean I need to find time to relax? Should I google: How to relax? Is there a class I need to take? Can I bring the kids with me? Or should I bake some Peanut Butter and jelly Muffins?
Stress is not something to be taken lightly though. When you are stressed, your hormones, such as cortisol will produce the “fight or flight response” in your body causing increased heart rate, heavy breathing and constricted blood vessels . When these responses happen repeatedly, they can lead to hypertension, migraines, mental health disorders, asthma, insomnia and the list goes on.
Relaxing and balancing the stress is a priority for a healthy life, but finding time to accomplish this can be a challenge. As usual, research and some conversations with the right people set me on the right path. I put together a short list of things you can do to help you de-stress, and since they are simple and quick, you can do it once or several times daily, when you have time. After all, finding time to relax can just add to stress! Instead use the time you are waiting for your toast to pop at breakfast, or seize the moments while in car line to pick up a child, or when you’re in line at the grocery store. The good news is that our body is also equipped with hormones to slow down your heart beat and promote balance, and these activities will you help you trigger that healing side you have within.
- Deep Breaths: Just take a series of 3-4 long deep breaths. Fill your lungs in with air coming through your nose, and let it out slowly through your mouth. This will reduce tension due to the extra boost of oxygen, stimulating a parasympathetic reaction, which helps you calm down.
- Muscle relaxation: Start with your toes, and then tighten your foot muscles for just a couple of seconds and then in turn, relax them. Move up to your calf muscle, then the thigh, repeating the action, all the way up to your face. Tighten and relax each muscle for a few seconds each: this sounds a little awkward but this can help with anxiety and stress!
- Snack break: Stress is a brain and immune system response, yet our gut is the largest organ in your immune system. Stress-eating doesn’t have to be bad! Pick a nutritious snack that will fill you up and eat it slowly; focus on the texture, how it tastes, how much you enjoy it or what you would change in it, and you’ve just turned your snack time into meditation! Here is a perfect on- the- go snack time to help you relax during your most stressful days: Peanut Butter Jelly Muffins — see recipe below!
- Watch a funny video: Laughter increases your intake of oxygen, which stimulates your heart, lungs, muscles and increases the endorphins released by your brain. Laughing helps your body relax! So pick your favorite cat video on YouTube, or re-watch some bloopers from your own family videos and laugh out loud!
- Walk: Take a 10 minute walk, and it’s better if it can be outdoors — even go barefoot. Our body craves connection with outside elements like wind, water, earth. A brisk walk will boost your endorphins and even help clear your mind. Consider looking around while you are walking,. Don’t focus on any one aspect; instead look at the sky, and then direct your attention to the grass. This will prevent you from directing your thoughts back to your to-do lists.
- Hand pressure point: Apply pressure to the space between your second and third knuckle to help create an instant sense of calm. “It activates a nerve that loosens the area around the heart, so any of that flutters feeling you feel when you’re nervous will end up going away.” S. Melnick (business psychologist).
- Music: Add some classical tunes to your track list! Classical music will slow heart rate, lower blood pressure and help decrease stress hormones. Actually, any music you enjoy will do the trick ! And if you are stuck somewhere without headphones, you can even hum your favorite tune to calm down your heartbeat.
Want to try another fun recipe? How about our Banana Peanut Butter Pancakes!
Peanut Butter Jelly Muffins
Carolina Jantac, MS, RD, LD
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. baking powder
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup milk or milk alternative
- ¼ cup coconut oil
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- ½-1 cup jelly or jam of your choice
- Combine all dry ingredients first; then add peanut butter and using a large spoon, mix until you achieve a crumbly texture. In a separate bowl, place eggs, milk and coconut oil. Make sure they are all at room temperature, so the coconut oil will remain at liquid form; now add it to the dry ingredients; set your hand mixer on low and mix for 4-6 minutes.
- Add mixture to muffin cups, filling them only about half way. Spoon in about ½ tbsp. of your favorite jelly or jam into each slot , and then complete muffin cup with the mixture.
- Bake in 375 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 15-20 minutes. The mixture will make about 12-15 muffins. Store them in an airtight container for up to 4 days.