Last Updated on September 29, 2019 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
My life is chaos.
It’s certainly no secret, and it’s absolutely not a complaint either, but from the time I wake up until the time I go to bed, I spin around like a semi-controlled tornado (hence the blog title, Relentless Forward COMMOTION). An article here, teaching a group exercise class there, chauffeuring kids to and from school, a group run, laundry, personal training clients, a sponsored Instagram photoshoot, don’t forget to feed the cats…it’s chaotic. And the kicker, and admittedly part of what I love, is that no two days are ever the same. Ever.
While I thrive on the chaos and commotion, it can also add a ton of stress to my life. I wouldn’t necessarily describe myself as a “Type A” person, but I think that those immersed in the fitness world have a certain drive that constantly pushes them to want more, do more, and be more. It is rare that we stop to consider slowing down…or stop to smell the flowers, if you will.
But slowing down can be a vital piece of your healthy puzzle, one that I’m willing to bet many people ignore.
When people consider what makes someone healthy, they almost always focus on physical fitness and eating habits. But experts agree that there is so much more to “health” and wellness than simply the condition of our physical bodies. The widely accepted six components of health include: physical health, social health, mental health, emotional health, spiritual health, and environmental health.
Honest question: how many of you focus on ALL aspects of your health?
Ignoring certain components can certainly affect other components of health. For example, according to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress can cause anything from headaches to cardiovascular disease (source). Therefore, it is safe to assume that focusing on improving mental, spiritual, and emotional health can only help contribute to your physical health.
But let’s get back to my chaos.
I am far from an expert in psychology. Short of the sports psych class I was required to take in school, my knowledge is very, very limited. But I have learned over the years ways to help lessen stress in my life, most notably, the idea of mindfulness.
The concept of mindfulness, or being consciously aware of my mental and emotional state, helps me to compartmentalize my stress, and in theory, reduce it. The following are my go – to techniques for mindfulness and stress reduction:
Is this worth the stress? A former professor and now friend said something during class one day that has stuck with me, many years later. She asked us if our physical and emotional stress was actually going to change the outcome of the situation we were stressing over. For example, let’s say you applied for a job that you really want. You’ve submitted your best resume, and sat through what felt like a stellar interview. But now, you must wait to hear if you got the job or not. Will stress and anxiety change the outcome of the interview after the fact, or will it just ruin your day while you sit around waiting? The obvious answer is that it will only make you more miserable to worry and stress, so try your best to let it go, and accept that whatever will be, will be.
This too shall pass: Some days it seems my kids only interrupt their bickering with each other to ask me a million requests that they likely could fulfill themselves. “Mom, can I have an apple?”, “Mom, I’m bored. What can I do?”, “Mom, where do we keep the forks?” Instead of a frustrated response informing my son that the forks are in the EXACT SAME SPOT they’ve ALWAYS been in, I take a deep breath, and remind myself that these moments with my kids are fleeting. Soon enough, they’ll be angst riddled teenagers who barely mumble a word towards their super uncool mom, so today I should relish in the thousand times they seek my undivided attention today. Live in the now.
A curse…or a blessing? So I accidentally missed a deadline, and now I’m feeling equal parts guilty and unprofessional. Further, I’ve got three more deadlines looming in the near future and I’m feeling totally unmotivated and uncreative. I can’t even begin to describe how much anxiety these moments cause me (the dark side of blogging, haha). But in these cases, I stop, take a deep breath (noticing a trend here?), and remind myself how lucky I am to have a job doing something as fun and intriguing as writing…from home no less! Yes, the stress and anxiety can really bring me down sometimes, but I bet a 9 to 5 job doing something I am not passionate about would be far more stressful. Count your blessings, Heather.
First world problems. Such a trendy, 2016 phrase. I don’t mean to diminish people’s personal problems or causes for stress, but asking myself if my problem is a “first world” problem helps bring me back down to earth. A “reality check”, if you will. If I’m stressed because money is tight, I remind myself of how lucky I am to have a roof over my head and food in the refrigerator. If I’m feeling stressed because my schedule is overbooked, I remind myself of how lucky I am to have a healthy, fit body capable of a full, busy schedule. I live an incredibly privileged life, simply by having been born into our society. I am grateful.
The key with all of these is being aware of a) what is causing me stress, and b) how it relates to the bigger picture of my life and the world around me. It’s not an exact science, but it has worked for me.
For those of you who may struggle with the concept of mindfulness, I’ve got a product to tell you about today that may help out:
We’ve all heard of, seen, and likely used one of the many fitness trackers available on the market. But Spire helps you track more than just movement and calories burned (though it does track those too), instead it acts as your “trainer” for mindfulness or mindful living, by tracking your breathing and movement patterns.
Spire is worn either on your waistband or bra, where it can best detect these breathing patterns. Note: the pod side of the Spire is to be worn against your skin. I learned that immediately AFTER these pictures:
But how exactly does Spire work? Basically, it senses the expansion and contraction in your torso and diaphragm as you inhale and exhale. According to Spire, advanced algorithms in the Spire app classify your breathing patterns based on dozens of laboratory studies correlating respiration patterns with cognitive and emotional state.
Spire creates mindfulness around breath and the importance of understanding your breathing in order to better understand your state of mind. This can be tied to yoga, stress management, meditation – effects of thoughtful breathing on your body. Or simply, awareness, which is what is most important to me. When your breathing indicates tension, a gentle notification from Spire reminds you to stop and take a deep breath. What’s more, the Spire tracker actually learns to anticipate potential stressful moments over time, and alerts you to them.
Spire tracks periods of: calm, tension, and focus on an app available on iOS and Android. The tracker itself does not have any visual cues or screens. The app alerts you to changes in breathing patterns in the moment, and suggests breathing exercises and meditations to lead to a more mindful behavior change be it a calmer and focused state or even becoming more active. It also provides a series of boosts that can be found in the app and used to find states of calm, focus or stress reduction as well as other mindfulness exercises from partners like Thich Nhat Hanh and Deepak Chopra.
The Spire tracker is: washer-proof (let me tell you, this is a genius idea, I cannot begin to tell you how many “trackers” I’ve accidentally washed), has a 7-day battery life, charges via a wireless charging port, and synchs using Bluetooth.
Personally, I learned one thing from the Spire tracker: I’m a fidgeter who doesn’t sit still long enough for tranquility or calmness. It’s who I am and seemingly just how I function. But it is certainly fascinating to watch the correlation between my activity and my levels of calm, focus, and tension. For example: early morning? Focused and calm. Later in the afternoon? Tense and fidgety.
Having more trackers and reminders in my life seems to be the antithesis of living in the moment and relaxing, however, I can see how the long term effect of the Spire tracker certainly can help contribute to mindfulness and awareness throughout the day. I’m willing to continue giving it a shot.
Is your life chaotic? What do you do to bring mindfulness into your life? Would you benefit from a Spire tracker?
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
Heather Hart is an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), UESCA certified Ultrarunning Coach, RRCA certified Running Coach, co-founder of Hart Strength and Endurance Coaching, and creator of this site, Relentless Forward Commotion. She is a mom of two teen boys, and has been running and racing distances of 5K to 100+ miles for over a decade. Heather has been writing and encouraging others to find a love for fitness and movement since 2009.