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Setting the Stage for Personal Wellness

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by Joan Pagano

Setting the Stage for Personal Wellness

I recently spent time with a friend who was memorizing lines for a lead role in a play.  He shared with me what it's like to flub a line or draw a blank, saying you become "de-stabilized" and need to recover.   You can become de- stabilized physically as well as mentally or emotionally.   Physical symptoms of de-stabilization at the extreme include illness and injury; but for normally healthy individuals they can be feeling out of balance, out of shape, worn out and stressed. Being well means being on your game, managing your everyday activities of life with vigor and alertness, without undue fatigue, and with energy to spare.

How do you create a philosophy of wellness and why is it important? Wellness is a practice of self-care. Each day you need to practice the fundamentals of self-care – whatever they are for you– in such a way that you can face doing it again tomorrow.  What works for you is very individual and must suit your lifestyle so you can build a practice of healthy habits that will serve your body for life.

What does it take for you to feel good every day?  Personally, I need my rest, wholesome meals at regular intervals, a moderate level of activity and a bit of quiet time.  I need to feel productive in terms of accomplishing the goals I've set for myself, however large or small they may be. 

Many years ago in a time of recovering from a personal crisis, my goals were very modest.  I would create a list of three things I was sure to be able to achieve, like do the laundry and grocery shopping, go for a walk.  I remember saying to myself, "Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and eventually you will arrive someplace else."  By putting one foot in front of the other I talked myself into a running program.  And do you know that ultimately I completed seven marathons?!  Baby steps work!

What role does exercise/physical activity play in building our resilience to negative stress? Being fit is a preventative to stress:  Conditioning the physiological systems fortifies your body against stress.   There are 3 components of a well-rounded fitness program - aerobic exercise to condition the heart and lungs; and strength training and stretching to keep muscles, bones and joints healthy.

Regular Aerobic Exercise

Your heart is a muscle the size of your fist and aerobic exercise strengthens the heart so it beats more efficiently with less effort, resulting in a lower heart rate both during exercise and at rest.   Your heart rate also returns to normal faster after physical stress.
Your heart is better able to handle "emotional storms" i.e. your heart rate and blood pressure will not rise as high as it would have without conditioning.

Strength Training

Strengthening the muscles allows you to perform your daily activities with greater ease and to handle unexpected demands. You can carry your grocery bags, hoist your carry-on into the overhead bin or lift a heavy roasting pan from the oven.

Strong people are more active.  Being strong gives you a sense of empowerment; you can be more independent and self-reliant.
You are more resilient to injury and less likely to suffer poor posture and back pain (the #1 medical complaint in the US)


Stretching also has a beneficial effect on posture as it lengthens the muscles and keeps freedom of movement in the joints.  Muscles and joints remain supple and strong when they are regularly used through their full range of motion.

You'll stand taller and straighter, look younger and slimmer!
Stretching discharges tension from the muscles, relieving tension-related back pain and headaches.

Practice a higher level of self care by developing an exercise habit. 

Consistency is key:  do a little bit a lot.  Bodyweight exercises are perfect for this – get in the habit of doing squats, push ups, back extensions and planks every other day.

Establish a "minimum daily requirement" for your fitness regime – it doesn't have to be extensive, but you need to create a modicum of activity to use as the foundation of your program and the baseline to which you return when life intervenes.

Think of exercise segments as "building blocks" of fitness. Squeeze walking into your day in 10 or 15 minute segments.  Do 10 or 15 minutes of full body exercise – lots of DVD's offer express workouts.  See how many "building blocks" you can accumulate during the course of your day. 

Apply creative thinking.  For example:  Use a stability ball at your desk.  Keep some stretch bands handy and use them in 5-minute strength training break.  Do stretches while watching TV or when you're brushing your teeth at night.

Once you have established an exercise habit, you will notice something is missing on the days you don't do it.  Get back on track as soon as possible.  The important thing is to eat and exercise each day so that you can face doing it again tomorrow.  This is how to establish healthy habits that will serve you throughout your life.

(c) Copyright - Joan L. Pagano. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Tags: life changes boomers wellness health stress

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