Stress Management & Relaxation Techniques

By Abbey Bronzati, BS, CPT

Intro to Relaxation Practice

5-minute Gratitude Practice to Relax & Reboot Your Brain

Why is it important to talk about relaxation?

We talk regularly about various ways to prevent or minimize stress in our lives. If we were perfect at managing our thoughts, time, exercise, finances, sleep, emotions and mother nature, we would always be capable of keeping our stress and anxiety at bay. However, we’re not perfect at these things, and many of them are often out of our control completely. We live in a hectic, fast-paced, go-go-go world, global pandemic or not. Due to the inevitability of experiencing stress,  especially during uncertain times such as now, it’s important to have techniques to turn off, or at least tone down, the stress response.

Let’s talk about the word “relaxation.” People often misunderstand or misuse this word. Relaxation is defined as “the state of being free from tension and anxiety.” It’s the restoration of equilibrium following a disturbance.

The relaxation response is the exact opposite of the stress response (AKA fight-or-flight response). There’s a lot of physiology surrounding the stress and relaxation responses I could talk about here that I’ll spare you the details. If you’re interested in learning more about the physiology of what’s going on inside the mind-body connection response to stress and relaxation connect with me and I would be happy to do another post or video.

The relaxation response facilitates an increase in alpha brain waves, which allow us to focus, and, contrary to popular belief, there is actually an increase in physical and mental energy. This is always beneficial to our lives, but especially right now.

4 basic sources of stress

Generally, there are 4 basic sources of stress from which we might currently be experiencing at a heightened level. These sources are taken from “The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook” by Dr. Martha Davis and Dr. Matthew McKay. This is an excellent workbook I highly recommend having as a resource for anyone interested.

  1. Your environment bombards you with demands to adjust. You’re required to endure weather, traffic, noise, a global pandemic or other natural disaster.
  2. You must cope with social stressors such as demands for your time and attention, job interviews, deadlines and competing priorities, work presentations, interpersonal conflicts, financial problems, and the loss of loved ones.
  3. A third source of stress is physiological. The rapid growth of adolescence; the changes menopause causes in women; lack of exercise, poor nutrition, and inadequate sleep; illness, injuries, and aging. All these things tax the body! Your physiological reaction to environmental and social threats and changes can also result in stressful symptoms such as muscle tension, headaches, an upset stomach, anxiety, and depression.
  4. The fourth source of stress is your thoughts. Your brain interprets these complex changes in your environment and body and determines when to turn on the stress response. How you interpret and label your present experience as well as what you predict for your future can serve either to relax you or stress you out more. For example, interpreting a sour look from your boss to mean that you are doing a poor job is likely to be very anxiety-provoking. Interpreting the same look as tiredness or preoccupation with personal problems will not be as frightening. Remember that how you think is how you feel.

Where does stress begin?

Stress researchers argue that stress begins with your appraisal of a situation, meaning that first you ask yourself how dangerous or difficult the situation is. Then, you assess what resources you perceive to have to help you cope with it. More anxious, stressed people tend to decide that (1) an event is dangerous, difficult, or painful, and (2) they don’t have the resources to cope.

Now that we have a better understanding of why and how the stress response is triggered for us, let’s dive deeper into the resources available to create a true relaxation response both mentally and physically.

Over the coming weeks we will review different relaxation techniques and how to practice them whenever and wherever you are. Please know that as you practice your relaxation techniques, you’ll become familiar with how it feels to be truly and deeply relaxed.

Right now, if I were to ask you what you do to relax, you might say that you watch TV, daydream, read a book, apply a face mask, or any other list of activities that are enjoyable and don’t elicit a stress response. However, this is not relaxation. While most of these activities are distractions, they don’t directly target the parts of our nervous system that trigger a relaxation response.

Relaxation is more than just doing something you enjoy, even though as you learn different techniques, you will learn to enjoy them.

Considerations for starting relaxation practice

  • A good place to start is to practice in short increments of 10-20 minutes per day.
  • It’s best to seclude yourself to minimize interruptions and background noise. Anything that you can do to minimize distractions will help you stay in the moment and focus on the activity. That said, relaxation practice is a skillful and valuable technique for kids from age 1 to 92. I hope you will consider sharing the various techniques you’ll be testing out with your loved ones at home. I know you will notice a difference in the lives and relationships around you.
  • Whatever relaxation technique you are testing out, it’s important to keep an open mind. Strip yourself of any expectations and allow the experience to happen. If you don’t think it’s going to work, it probably won’t. If you think it will work, it likely will.
  • Please know that every technique we’re going to talk about has been proven to elicit a relaxation response. Some of the techniques can seem odd to some people, but if you keep an open mind and allow for the possibility that these practices will help you relax, I promise you will find that there is great power in these activities.
  • Your attitude plays an important role in maintaining a high degree of mindfulness. This means that you’re engaged in the moment without judging it to be good or bad. Rather than forcing an experience, you’re just allowing it to happen. In other words, you have a passive attitude. Allow and accept. Don’t get frustrated with yourself or the experience.
  • Not everyone will have the same experience with relaxation practice. Take time to experiment and find what works best for you. For example, different times of day might work for different people. You may find that you get the best relaxation response in the morning so you can calm your mind and get yourself focused for the rest of your day. You might find that the afternoon works better as you start to feel tired and run-down. You may even find it’s best when you’re already in bed to help you fall asleep and get deeper, higher quality rest. Like I said, take time to experiment and find what works best for you.

The goal of stress management and relaxation practice is not merely stress reduction. After all, life would be pretty boring without stress. There is a common tendency to think of stressors or stressful events as negative, but stressors are often positive. The physical exertion of a good workout or the challenge of doing something new for the first time are great examples of good stress.

Performance and efficiency both improve with increased stress as long as the stress level doesn’t become too great. Stress management involves finding the right types and amounts of stress, given your individual tendencies, priorities, personality, and situation, so that you can maximize your performance and enrich your life experience. You can learn how to cope with stress more effectively while including more positive stress, challenge, excitement, and pleasure to your life.

Are you looking to decrease stress, increase energy, and maintain your routine during this crazy time in our lives?  Get on a call TODAY with our expert team to go over all of our remote coaching options!  Click below for more information and to sign up for your 1-on-1 call.

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Create a pain free Plank!

What’s up, Epic Fitness Rockstars! Ben here at Epic Fitness, and today I wanted to go over not only how to progress just a basic plank into a “harder” plank by using TENSION, but also how to make sure you are doing them perfect and without any back pain.

We love to use the cue “from the toes to the nose” when we teach planks, making sure the body is braced all the way through, not just the abs only. So give this a try next time you hold a plank:

Step #1 – SQUEEZE your heels together (ensures feet are together and connected).

Step #2 – SQUEEZE your knees together – (ensures your hips and butt are working too!)

Step #3 – SQUEEZE and pull your elbows towards your ribs! This is what we call a “hardstyle” plank, and we love to use this variation because it teaches how you can control TENSION to make an exercise harder, without having to just hold a plank for longer!

Looking for a customized experience where you can learn how to do movements like this one correctly, and where you will always have someone watching and coaching you?!  We are opening up our “21 Day Epic Experience” to just 7 more motivated individuals!  Apply below, and see what kind of a difference you can make in 21 short days!

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Create a pain free Push-Up!

What’s up Epic Fitness Rockstars, Ben here! I just wanted to take a quick 3 minutes to give you 2 great tips for fixing your push-ups! What we see more often than not is the “elbow flare” – or where your elbows drive outward and not towards the body which can cause shoulder and neck pain. We also see this create a poor position of the head and neck, so this video addresses those 2 common faults.

Here are the 2 fixes you can give a try today to make your push-up awesome:

Fix #1 – Use small plates to put your thumbs on. What this actually does is forces you to use your hands more and to drive your thumbs and fingers into the ground more! This will in-turn keep your elbows more “tucked in” and in a strong position to perform a push-up!

Fix #2 – Have a focal point in front of your head 1-2 feet to create a little extension in your neck so your head and neck don’t lead during your push-up. What this will do is keep your neck in alignment with the rest of your spine and create great integrity through your entire back during a push-up!

Watch this very short video and give these 2 tips a try next time you perform your push- ups, and let us know how they go!

 

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Create a pain free Deadlift!

What’s up, Epic Fitness Rockstars!!  Ben here over at Epic Fitness. I wanted to share 3 tips to perfect your deadlift, and how to not hurt your back from a deadlift again!

This is something that our entire team is super passionate about – we know the reason you workout is to get stronger in this game of life, and to avoid injury, and the deadlift is probably one of the “biggest bang for your buck” exercises that will help keep your back healthy and strong!

Here are the 3 tips we use at the gym to make your technique feel great when you deadlift!

TIP #1 – Elevate your toes – This small change can make a big impact in finding those “hamstrings” and muscles you want to find when you first start to deadlift. Also, elevating your toes will also give you great feedback to push your hips “back” and not just “down” like a squat.

TIP #2 – Use a dowel to find a neutral spine – The dowel will give you instant feedback on if you are keeping a neutral spine and to keep from flexing your back. The goal is to keep the dowel on your butt, upper back and head during the entire movement.

TIP #3 – Use a Sandbag and load your deadlift in front of your body to start. This really makes you focus on bracing, keeping a great spine position, and pushing your hips back to create a “maximal hip bend, minimal knee bend” position that is so important to create before trying to lift heavy weights!

Check out the short video below and give these 3 tips a try, and let us know which one works best for you!

 

Tenille U. Shares her Epic Transformation!

Epic Fitness Rockstar, Tenille U. recently completed our last 8 week challenge and we wanted to share her amazing journey! Tenille was able to really connect with her body and her mind during this challenge.  Besides being able to zip up her jeans and Drop 2 Sizes, Tenille also describes the power of having community support and people that are there and who are just like you!

Here is some of what Tenille shared with us:

“I have enjoyed the journey over the past eight weeks and it has helped me feel more connected to my body and mind.  Reconnecting with myself through the love letter we wrote and also with my community (Epic teammates).  I enjoyed hearing others share their experiences along their journeys.  Watching and listening to us talk about our jeans at try on day was also eye-opening.


I felt great being able to zip up my own jeans and also felt such excitement for my fellow teammates.  Seeing them working so hard and achieving their own goals was awesome!  This journey felt much more emotional than I thought it would be.  I really noticed a change in my moods with the different foods I was putting into my body.  I feel I didn’t take the time before to realize and write down all my emotions.  I started journaling again after our Destress Techniques class and it’s helped me to notice all my mood swings and how much I needed to focus more on destressing for myself and my family.

Kindness is simply helping some feel less alone and the kindness Madison and my fellow teammates have shown has been priceless.  I have read a few quotes on this journey that have really stuck with me:

“if you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself.”

“Many have an image of me, few get the picture.”

“The vibes you put out into the world is a reflection of who you are inside.  Make them kind.  Make them loving.  Make them bright and filled with rainbows.”

“If you quit now, you’ll end up right back where you first began.  And when you first began, you were desperate to be where you are right now.  Keep going!!”

Thank you to the Epic Team for all of the love and dedication to us getting 1% better every day!”

With New Years right around the corner, we wanted to give you a special offer for 2020! Are you are ready to make consistent changes in your life both mentally and physically and do you want the opportunity to start with us and get 1/2 off for the month of January, 2020?!
If so, click below to learn more about our upcoming “New Year New You” Challenge! It is a 42 day fully immersive experience that will challenge you to become your best self for 2020! We only have 6 spaces left for this EPIC DEAL!!

Tasha G. Shares her Epic Transformation!

Epic Fitness Rockstar Member, Tasha G. recently completed our last 8 week challenge and we wanted to share her amazing journey! Tasha’s journey was as much mental and emotional as it was physical. She realized in the first week how much weighing herself every day was mentally holding her back from long term, sustainable results. Once she turned in her scale to us, she found it to be one of the most freeing things she could do to get her mind right!

Here is some of what Tasha shared with us:

“I learned that the scale did not determine my weight loss journey.  I was completely focused on what the scale number was and not on how I was feeling.  I was allowing the numbers on the scale to determine how I was feeling for the rest of my day.  I can’t begin to tell you how freeing it was to turn in my scale.  After turning in my scale, I started to focus more on my food and my program.  I then started to notice my clothes were getting looser and my body started to get stronger.  I started to realize that the numbers on the scale didn’t define who I am.


Another huge turning point for me in this challenge was when we had to write a positive letter to ourselves. Whoa, what a huge eye-opening experience that was!  I didn’t realize how negative I was being to myself.  Once I started replacing my negative thoughts with some of my positive thoughts from my letter everything started to shift for me.  I was able to catch myself from saying and thinking negative things about myself.  I started to believe in myself again!”

Tasha is a perfect example of taking something as simple as the scale out of the equation for measuring progress, and instead using how she feels and how her clothes fit as a true indicator of success!

Are you are ready to make consistent changes in your life both mentally and physically and do you want the opportunity to train for FREE in 2019, and 1/2 off for the month of January, 2020??

If so, click below to learn more about our upcoming “New Year New You” Challenge! It is a 42 day fully immersive experience that will challenge you to become your best self for 2020! We only have 10 spaces left for this EPIC DEAL!!

Whitney T. Shares her Physical and Mental Transformation!

Epic Fitness Rockstar Member, Whitney T. recently completed our last 8 week challenge and we wanted to share her amazing journey! Not only is Whitney one of our most consistent members physically (she also hit 100 workouts in the last 6 months!) she also found that in order to get sustainable results she had to dig deep mentally as well.
Here is Whitney’s story:
“Wow!  What a journey!  The last 8 weeks were great, and I feel like I could’ve accomplished more – but I am proud of what I accomplished.  I feel that it kicked me into a mental and physical state that I have not been in in a while. The last 8 weeks have made me more accountable with my food choices.  I feel like because I had a goal in mind it was easy to stay on track.  Although that may be the case, I feel like it helped me create good habits and kick bad habits.I feel like it helped me create a habit of consistency in the gym.  Because of that consistency it led me to see results, which made me want to keep going harder.Of course, the physical changes and nutritional accountability was helpful, but over the last 8 weeks I have been able to mentally dig deeper.  Sometimes there are so many mental barriers that stop me from being my best self and I have learned the importance of de-stressing and being nicer to myself. All of this combined are habits that will help me going forward on my transformation journey to being a better me!”
We are so grateful to have members like Whitney who share such amazing stories! Ready to make 2020 your year of sustainable change?! We would love to be in your corner!

Click below to learn more about our 6th annual “New Year New You” program starting on January 25th, 2020!  Space is limited (we only have 10 spaces available, and they will sell out before January 1st!) and you can learn more about the program below.  

New Year New You 2020!

 

Amy P. Shares her Emotional Transformation

Epic Fitness Member, Amy P. recently joined our “Drop 2 Sizes” program and to say she had some amazing results is an understatement. Her transformation was more mental and emotional, and that gave her the ability to have a physical transformation as well. Besides dropping two sizes, losing almost 8 inches off her waist and hips, she also got her confidence back with her goal to truly love herself for who she is!
Here is some of what Amy shared with us:
“I grew up hiking, playing soccer, volleyball, water polo, being on swim team and surfing.  Being active became part of who I was and not just something I did.  Over the last 10 years I have struggled with my weight, strength, endurance, etc. due to health issues and not always being able to be active.  This was such a blow to me not only physically, but mentally and emotionally.  When I’m not as active I really start to get down on myself so much that I start hating myself.  I feel like I’m not worth anything and that I’m never going to be good enough.  There are other contributors to these feelings but they get darker when I have to “take it easy” or take care of myself in some way other than being active.
When the opportunity came to do D2S, something inside of me nagged instantly to sign up and make that commitment.  I just kept thinking that this challenge would help me with the mental and emotional aspect of my struggles and not only the physical.  I couldn’t be more grateful that it has!
I had gotten to a point where I sincerely, truly and deeply hated myself.  For me there has always been a difference between what I feel and what I know.  Recently it seems that what I felt started to become what I know instead of the other way around.  Some of the weekly topics really hit home for me and were so hard that I couldn’t even write anything down to do the activity.  However, those were the topics I could use the most.  I still have good and not so good days, but I’m grateful that when the not so good days come my mind seems to automatically jump to what we’ve discussed throughout the challenge and I’m able to see the light better than falling more into the darkness.
This challenge has also helped me better combat my feelings of being worthless.  It has been hard to admit that I do matter (which was my mission statement).  I chose that as my mission statement because I wanted to at least start believing it by the time this challenge concluded.  I’m happy to say that I am starting to believe that!!
While this challenge has definitely helped me physically, I am more grateful that this challenge has uplifted and changed me both mentally and physically.  I know that has been the bigger success.  I still have hurdles to jump, but they don’t seem so discouraging anymore.  My goal to truly love myself seems attainable and I am well on my way there!

MAHALO so much for giving me additional tools to help me on my journey.  Most of all, thank you for believing in me and that I was worth it when I didn’t.  I will never be able to thank you all the way you truly deserve.  My life is forever better now.”

Wow, we are so grateful to have members like Amy who share such amazing stories! Are you ready to start a routine and looking for a guide to help you get started with a very reasonable, tested and trusted process?  We would love to be in your corner! Click below to schedule your FREE strategy session with us to learn how we can help you reach your goals for the new year in our upcoming “New Year New You” program starting in January, 2020!  Space is limited (we only have 10 spaces available, and they will sell out before January 1st!) and you can learn more about the program below.  

New Year New You 2020! 

 

 

Charli G. Shares her Epic Story!

We are so excited to be able to share Epic Fitness Rockstar Member, Charli G’s amazing transformation since she started with us.  She has shown up every day in the gym full of gratitude and a willingness to learn and improve 1% every day, and we have been so grateful to be on her team!

Here is more in Charli’s own words:

“This was truly a great experience.  It was a perfect amount of success with a mix of the perfect amount of challenge.  The most enjoyable part for me was the group and the classes.  I gained motivation and energy through the group support system.  While I wanted to improve for myself, it’s my coaches that I also didn’t want to let down.  This accountability is very powerful!

The biggest challenge for me is drinking alcohol.  Working out wasn’t a challenge for me but the alcohol was very difficult for me to give up.  Instead, I improved 1% and drank significantly less than I was prior to the challenge.  My area for improvement the next go around will be to drink even less, in fact, not at all.

The other obstacle for me was journaling.  During this challenge I went to NYC, Moab and Casper WY.  I stayed pretty strong eating and snacking and working out with some weaker moments.  Routine really helps with consistency and traveling added a significant “challenge” to a “challenge.”Despite these challenges, I feel like a new person.  I feel happy, I feel strong, I feel empowered.  I feel confident in my clothes and I feel confident in my own skin.  I will continue with the positive habits I developed, and I’ll continue on a positive path in my life.  I’m grateful for Epic Fitness, and all the staff for encouraging and motivating me.  Not only did I drop 2 sizes, but I dropped a lot of stress and grief along with it.  Thanks for coaching and cheering me on this journey.”

Thank you, Charli for sharing your amazing story!!

Are you ready to start a routine and looking for a guide to help you get started with a very reasonable, tested and trusted process?  We would love to be in your corner! Click below to schedule your FREE strategy session with us to learn how we can help you reach your goals for the new year (and also your chance to save over $100 on our most popular “New Year New You” challenge starting in January, 2020!!)

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Bored From Success

Being in the fitness industry now for 13 years and seeing hundreds, if not thousands, of fitness “trends” and health “hacks” come and go, I am going to make a bold statement and say the greatest threat to your success in health and wellness is not failure, but boredom.

Bored from Success

Boredom from those workouts your coaches keep putting you through – push, pull, hinge, squat, carry and everything else!  You keep asking “Isn’t there something more sexy than this?”

Boredom from that nutritional plan that actually WORKED.  Eating protein, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, healthy sources of fats.  You aren’t sure if it will work long term, so you want to try something else.

Here is my theory – We get bored from these habits because they literally stop delighting us.  The outcome becomes more expected while our habits become ordinary and mundane.  We lose the weight, we get our jeans to fit, and we reach our goals but then we start derailing our progress by seeking novelty.

Novelty may be the biggest hinderance to achieving long-term, sustainable results.  It is also known as “shiny new object” syndrome, and it is literally killing our progress.  Perhaps this is why we get caught up in a never-ending cycle, jumping from one workout to the next, or one diet to the next.

As soon as we experience the slightest dip in motivation, we begin seeking a new strategy, even if the old one was working!  As the old Italian Philosopher, Niccolo Machiavelli noted:

“Men desire novelty to such an extent that those who are doing well wish for a change as much as those who are doing badly.”

 Companies are turning these “novel” ideas into multimillion-dollar ideas.  I never knew that our muscles needed to be “confused” until Beach Body came out with P-90X!  Who would have known that the Paleo diet was going to be all the craze in the 21st century – like eating animal protein, fat and vegetables was some new nutritional strategy – when it was really popularized with our ancestors thousands of years ago!

What is the best solution to the problem we find ourselves facing then?  How do we get rid of all the clutter around us, all of these new “novel” ideas that are being thrown down our throats by the marketing machines of the 21st century?  Honestly, I don’t think I have a solution to this. We are going to be constantly bombarded by crazy ideas that so-called “professionals” throw out there every day, just to try and make a buck.

The best advice I can give you is to form your own wellness principles based on ordinary habits that you can actually do 80-90% of the time.  These principles will act more like your “north star” directing you towards long term, sustainable health and wellness practices – and when practiced daily can lead to some pretty dramatic results over the long term!

To come up with these principles, I would suggest asking yourself the following question as you come up with your own unique principles:

Will I be able to replicate this principle daily in my life and make it a sustainable habit over the long term?

 If the answer to this question is “Yes”, then you are well on your way to building some pretty amazing principles to guide your daily habits.  Strength Coach Dan John likes to call these principles “Pirate Maps.”  A pirate map would look like this:

 “Fly to St. Johns Island.  Drive 2.5 miles south until you see a large coconut tree.  Walk 7 paces east of the tree and start digging.”

Think of a pirate map as all of the daily repeatable habits that you can do to get you closer and closer to your own defined goal or finding your “buried treasure.”  Some ideas of principles that you can add to your own “pirate map” may include:

  • A sleep hygiene strategy – something you can repeat each night to get yourself ready for the next day (like having a “to-do” list!)
  • Carving out time in your day for taking care of your own health and fitness
  • Committing to eating certain food groups (like more vegetables)
  • Having time built into your day for mindfulness

It really depends on where you are at in your journey, but what we suggest are habits that you can also “stack” onto other things you are already doing.  For example, since you are already brushing your teeth at night, why not place your time of being mindful (meditation, writing your gratitude for the day in a journal, etc.) and stack it with that habit that you are already performing.  This will help the new habit “stick” and become a daily part of your routine.

Remember, the hardest thing that will happen once you start to apply many of these new habits is you will get bored.  You will want to try something “new and shiny.”  DON’T DO IT!  Stick with your plan, stick with the pirate map that you have created, and before you know it you will be achieving things in your life that you once never thought possible!

Looking for a roadmap to be able to start a plan, stick with it and start to build on habits one at a time?  Click below to schedule your complimentary strategy session and learn how to start building a health and fitness routine that supports your lifestyle!

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