The best ways to beat stress

This week the girls at Food Fitness Fertility are explaining how exercise can relieve stress.

Few things are more stressful than going through infertility. The way in which you respond to stress has a huge impact on your body, your emotional state and furthermore your relationship. If your relationship is strained due to stress it’s unlikely you’ll be in the supportive and positive environment you need to be. Exercise is one of the consistently proven and best ways to beat stress, anxiety, depression and other mood disorders. One study showed that being unfit is associated with a 75 per cent increase of depression while another showed that combining exercise and meditation decreased depression by 40 %.

What exercise is best?

There is no ‘best’ exercise for stress. The type of exercise you do isn’t particularly important, just find something you enjoy doing, work up a little sweat and do that consistently. Walking, jogging, yoga, pilates, weights classes, dance- they’re all beneficial. When it comes to fertility however avoid very high intensity workouts such as crossfit style regimes as this can add excess stress on your body.

How Does Exercise Impact Stress?

Exercise’s impact on stress occurs at a hormonal level by reducing the levels of our stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. It also encourages the release of endorphins ‘Our Happy Hormones’. If you’ve ever heard of “runner’s high” or felt that feeling of calm and joy after an exercise class you’ve experienced the great work of endorphins.

Exercise also contributes notably to your increased fitness levels and stronger body. These added benefits further decrease stress by giving you a sense of empowerment and control over your body leading to increased self-confidence and self-esteem. Being able to achieve goals in the gym helps to distract from the lack of immediate control you have over starting your family and this can greatly benefit your stress levels. Keep an eye on your body fat levels while exercising and be careful not to become too lean. A body-fat percentage of between 20-24 % is ideal when trying for a baby. Read our article here to find out more.

Joining workout classes also opens up opportunities to meet new people and potentially friends. Your infertility journey can be a lonely time and having a large support group is crucial. Friends, laughing and girl talk in general is great medicine for stressful times, even if it is just a couple of hours a week getting sweaty in the gym.

See below for our workout of the week

Beat Stress Wellness Tip

Meditation and deep breathing are other wonderful ways to combat immediate and chronic stress. Using apps like Headspace, meditation or yoga apps can really help guide your breathing and focus and only require a few minutes a day. Rapid, shallow, chaotic breathing is a common response to a stressful situation. Slow, deep, thoughtful and regular breathing is a sign of a calm state. Taking time out for even a minute and completely change out states. Journaling or writing down your feelings and thoughts is another meditative process that helps you leave the stress on the page. Journaling apps are very handy and you can look like you’re just texting someone if you want to release stress while others are around.

Diet plays a huge role on the way you respond to stress and how your body manages stress. If when stressed you reach for highly processed, high sugar inflammatory foods you’re putting further strain and stress on your body. When you’re in a high emotional state you’re aren’t present while eating and consume far more than you need as the feeling of fullness doesn’t resonate with you. So be mindful and when feeling stressed or emotional and try not eating when in that state.

Remember you don’t have to be alone on your Fertility journey but unless you talk about it and find ways that you can deal with the added stress it will have a huge impact on your emotional, physical and mental health as well as your relationships.

Acute aerobic exercise helps overcome emotion regulation deficits

Meditation and aerobic exercise done together helps reduce depression, according to a new Rutgers study.

Increasing NEAT 

NEAT is non-exercise activity thermogenesis – the energy you use that isn’t exercise, sleeping or eating. Increasing your metabolism). We’ve added number 4 this week, but continue to apply tips 1, 2 and 3 = Creating habits that stick make it easier to see results and create consistency.

  1. Get a Fit-Bit, pedometer, step counter or any similar device. Having a goal to reach of at least 10,000 steps a day and optimally 15,000 steps a day is a great motivator and way of tracking your daily activity levels.
  2. Go for a 15-minute walk at some point during your working day every day. Leave a jacket and a pair of runners under the desk so you have no excuses.
  1. Standat your desk periodically throughout the day. Standing increases blood flow and engages the major muscle groups in your lower body. Alternatively you could sit on a stability ball instead of an office chair, you will be actively engaging your core muscles and you could fit in some extra exercise. Also stand and pace around when on calls, this will increase your daily step count.
  2. Decide to do one big job in your home every week for example – clearing out your wardrobe or cleaning up the garden after the winter. Both of these will work your body and also help create some mental clarity. De-cluttering is a great wellness tool to help you shed baggage physically and emotionally.

You can always read some more about NEAT on our website

Workout 4

We want to help your body move better, feel stronger, toned and build muscle.

This is GREAT FOR BEGINNERS. No equipment required just a stopwatch or timer app.

This is a 10 minute CORE workout with three body weight exercises. We advise you to complete some cardio (20 minute jog, 45 min power walk or some interval training) first and then do this 10 minute core blast at home. All exercises, but in particular core exercises, should be performed with a connection to your breathing. Exhaling on the hard/exertion part of the move is very important but the key is linking your core to this.

Click here to hear and see a visual on Breathing and what we should do on the exhale…Now try to practice that through these exercises below.

You now have 4 easy workouts in your library, try to complete 3 of these workouts over the course of the 7 days.

Exercise 1

Alt Supermans / Bird Dog this is a super move for building stability and strength through your entire core. Ensure that your knees are slightly outside your hips to avoid falling over when you lift the opposite knee. Maintain a neutral spine position i.e. do not over/under arch your lower back.

Tense the muscles in your leg as you extend, flexing your toe under and kicking your heal out. Pause for a moment and come back to starting position and repeat on the other side.

Exercise 2

Glute Bridge it is so important to work on your lower back and upper Gluteous muscles when strengthening your core. This is a staple exercise to be included in all exercise plans. The variation shown here is for beginners but it can be easily progressed by starting on your heels, or into a single leg glute bridge.

Remember as you exhale, drive your hips up by squeezing your glute (bum) muscles, slowly lower back to starting position and repeat.

Exercise 3

Supine Heal Drops our transverse abdominal muscles sit underneath our “6 pack”. They act as our own body corset wrapping around and hugging in important bodily organs like our uterus and bladder. This exercise is quite passive but when done correctly it targets those muscles. Create a relationship with these muscles now, learn how to draw them in on the exhale and you will be forever thankful to yourself postpartum.

On the inhale drop one heel to the ground, and exhale bringing your knee back up to starting position, flatten lower back into floor and draw in your TA’s lifting up through your pelvic floor. Repeat on the other leg taking it nice and slow with your breath.

Format

45 secs work / 15 secs rest x 3 rounds = 9 Minutes Rest for 30 seconds between rounds

Click on the exercise to review the video demos before commencing workout

If you’d like to share with us your mini goals or how you are getting on with the workouts you can engage with us on our forum

You can find out more on our website

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Julia C. Basso, Wendy A. Suzuki. The Effects of Acute Exercise on Mood, Cognition, Neurophysiology, and Neurochemical Pathways: A Review. Brain Plasticity, 2017; 2 (2): 127

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