Managing stress through sleep and exercise

Stress relief: Woman sleeping on desk with coffee in hand

As a working mom addicted to social media and Netflix, wired and tired is a good way to describe my life.

When I saw the flier for Banner’s Wired & Tired lecture series on managing stress through sleep and exercise, I knew I needed to check it out.

The discussion was held at CrossFit Insidious in Mesa, Arizona, and speakers included Rochella LaRue, the studio owner, and Drs. Eericca Bickley, OB-GYN, and Syerra Lea, family medicine physician.

LaRue opened the event by sharing her story. A few years back, she weighed 215 lbs. One morning, she herniated three discs getting out of bed. She realized she was dehydrated and had been eating the wrong foods. She began exercising, discovered CrossFit and never looked back. She lost 55 pounds in a year, and then thought about what bad shape people were in, and wanted to show them how they could feel good, which led to her starting her own CrossFit business.

She asked the group of women in attendance to raise their hands if they pamper themselves once every three months – nearly everyone did. Monthly? Fewer hands were raised. Weekly? Even fewer. More than once a week? One hand remained in the air.

When we think of pampering, LaRue said, we often think of getting our nails or hair done.

“What if I told you pampering was about exercising and eating right?” she said. “When women start lifting weights, it’s amazing how good you feel.”

Having some “me” time, LaRue explained, and being healthy is good not only for ourselves, but for those around us.

“I explain CrossFit like being a kid again,” she said. “As kids, we played outside, got dirty, climbed trees, played on the playground. As adults, that stops. Why?”

It doesn’t have to be CrossFit, she said. The important thing is to find something that you love.

Rochella LaRue Wired & Tired

Following LaRue’s comments, Drs. Bickley and Lea led a discussion on stress.

Everybody has stress, Dr. Lea said, but in the long term, stress can cause depression, anxiety, increased blood pressure and heart rate, stomach problems, headaches and irregular period cycles – which can lead to problems with fertility.

They offered several tips to deal with stress:

  • Take a walk to get away from what’s bothering you. Sunshine helps.
  • If you can’t go for a walk, take a moment to stop and regroup. Take a couple of deep breaths and process what you’re going through.
  • Take a break from everything. Put down your phone, walk away from the computer, eat a healthy snack.
  • Keep plants on your desk.
  • Play music. Classical music, especially, can have a calming effect.
  • Do a craft. The repetitive motion of knitting, coloring, making jewelry or painting can be relaxing. “These are things you can do that will help you forget about everything else, resting your mind from the everyday stresses,” Dr. Bickley said.
  • Exercise at least three days a week.

Dr. Lea acknowledged that it can sometimes be hard to find the time to exercise – but she said there are ways to sneak it in. Try parking far away when going to the grocery store, and doing a couple laps around the store before filling up your cart. Or consider taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work.

One of the top complaints Dr. Lea hears from patients is that they’re tired. Her next two questions are always: “How much sleep are you getting?” and “Are you exercising?”

It’s recommended that adults get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night, Dr. Bickley said. They offered these tips for getting enough sleep:

  • Try not to nap during the day.
  • Don’t bring your phone into the bedroom and don’t watch TV. Your sleep space should be dark and quiet.
  • If you’re still awake after 20 minutes, get up, do something, and go back and try again.
  • Try to keep a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends.
  • Watch what you drink.
    • Drink plenty of water.
    • Limit caffeine intake and don’t drink caffeine later in the day.

For those who do these things and continue having fatigue or trouble sleeping, Dr. Lea said it’s important to talk to your doctor. And it’s always a good idea to make time for your annual physical.

Lea Bickley Wired & Tired

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