Stress-Free 2017: A month-by-month guide
As we gradually say goodbye to the holiday season and wholeheartedly embrace the start of the new year, the daily stresses of life quickly start resurfacing, often despite the most well-intentioned of resolutions to maintain total zen-like calm.While stress is a natural part of our environment that keeps us from being complacent and challenges us to continue forging forward, knowing when and how to best deal with stress is essential to optimizing mind and body function.Over the past few years, we have asked all Chōsen participants to complete a lifestyle survey prior to joining a Chōsen Experience, seeking to better understand how our successful, driven clientele combat high stress levels. The results highlighted exercise, yoga and meditation as the top three tools for alleviating stress, but also revealed a list of other handy coping mechanisms that we have compiled into an annual list for you to try out each month. Jan for... YogaYoga is all about balance – both physical and mental – so it is perhaps unsurprising that 32% of Chōsen participants listed regular yoga sessions as one of their top three tactics for relieving stress and remaining level-headed.Yin yoga is favored by our Chōsen experts for its focus on clearing the mind, but even the basic Sun Salutation series practiced for a few minutes each morning, after exercise, or when traveling can significantly reduce anxiety levels. In January, start making yoga part of your daily or weekly routine and carry it through the year. February for… Functional FitnessTaking out the top spot in stress management strategies was high-energy exercise, being used by 36% of all respondents. Regularly working up a sweat is certainly not just beneficial for the body; studies have shown that frequent vigorous exercise is as effective at combatting stress as meditation.However, high-intensity training does increase the heart rate and can affect the quality of sleep. So try to incorporate any HIIT or weights training into your morning routine when the ensuing energy-spike will only help you to power through the day. March for… MeditationMeditation was cited by 25% of respondents as useful in helping face daily challenges. Simply, taking ten quiet minutes to recalibrate and recenter can be an effective way of dealing with work and life strains, but, during March, why not try some other tension-mitigating techniques?Our suggestion, Movement Meditation. Mark your stress level on a scale from one to ten, with ten being the worst possible. Pick a song, crank up the volume and just dance like no one is watching – if you’re feeling self conscious, it can help to close your eyes. Shake your stuff for 2-5 minutes, then check back in and you’ll likely find your levels have dropped by at least a few digits. Who knew bopping to Beyoncé could have such stress-busting benefits? April for… An Occasional TreatChocolate has cropped up from time to time in our lifestyle survey as a guilty pleasure that participants turn to for a moment of comfort or just a small indulgence. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with enjoying an occasional treat, so why not give yourself a pass at Easter and savour a few extra sweets, particularly if they are of the antioxidant-rich dark chocolate variety. May for… MindfulnessPracticing being present in the moment and positive about the future is one of the simplest means to coping with tough times and improving overall mental well-being. In May, consider trying out our ultimate mindfulness trick: the ‘no complaining challenge’. Based on the principle that our words inform our thoughts and in turn shape our emotions, the challenge is simply to stop being vocally negative for as little as a day or as long as lifetime. Try it for a month for a habit-forming attitude. June for… JoggingJogging, running or walking was mentioned by about 14% of all Chōsen participants as a trusted form of stress relief. Getting outside for a brisk trot helps clear the mind and also delivers a dose of vitamin D, which has been shown to improve mood and even combat depression.Make the most of the sunny summer months by training to complete a walk or run event. There are plenty to choose from but favourites of our alumni include Oxfam Trailwalker events around the world and XTERRA to name but a few. July for… Half-Time, Me-TimeTaking some alone time to focus on yourself is an important means of maintaining overall well-being, as many Chōsen participants well know judging by survey responses. The amount of me-time needed varies by personality and can range from a few hours a week getting a massage or spa treatment, to an annual boundary-pushing solo adventure. Make a plan to take a day or a week break in July to experience time on your own. August for… CookingCooking can all too often become just another task to be ticked off the daily list, but getting in the kitchen is also a great way to unwind and settle after a day at the office. Preparing a meal helps you focus on a task (making it a perfect practice of mindfulness) and is also a wonderful outlet for creativity.Challenge yourself to try a new recipe each week throughout the month of August. Need some epicurean inspiration? Check out our selection of tasty (and healthy) recipes created by chefs and nutritionists. September for... SlumberWe can’t talk enough about the importance of getting a good night's sleep – it’s a foundation for good health and lifestyle, and one of the best ways to minimize stress. Try incorporating some of our expert sleep advice through the month of September to improve your rest time. October for… Reading11% of Chōsen participants stated they turn to a good book to destress. We have started compiling a catalogue of 100 Must-Read Books and challenge you to put together your own list in October; it’s a handy way to remember your favourites and ideal to share and swap with friends. These six books for health and wellbeing could just get you started. November for… New FriendsNothing can give you a boost quite like time spent with a good friend. 14% of our survey respondents listed socializing with friends as one of the ways they keep blues at bay, with particular mention given to dancing, lunching and shopping with buds.But meeting new people can be as positively impactful as spending time with old mates. It can also push you out of your comfort zone and into new social circles. This month, challenge yourself by joining a group activity or class to stay social, make fresh connections and learn new skills. December for… Happy Hour (in moderation)Only 5% of survey respondents mentioned using a stiff drink to help them relax – and rightly so, overindulging during 2-for-1 cocktail hour can, in fact, increase stress by adversely stimulating your nervous system. An occasional glass of red wine however, has been proven to help maintain healthy heart function.During seasonal festivities, try to stick to organic wines, which, compared to normal vintages, contain less sulphur dioxide (aka the preservative that is the primary cause of the next day’s brain fog). An increasing variety of fantastic organic wines are now readily available in good bottle shops.Cheers, to a stress-free ’17!