How I handle stress during HealthKwest

Disclaimer: This post is part of my participation in the Genghis Grill Health Kwest Challenge. #Healthkwest #GenghisGrillAd

My Healthkwest social media challenge for today: We gave you a GG stressball. How do you handle stress & nervousness when $10,000 and your health on the table? Write a blog about & include quotes you live by that help you achieve your goal.

This was a really good question for me because it is frankly my most pressing concern in the contest.

To be competitive (at least based on my assumptions on how everyone else is doing weight loss wise — I will know more in a few days after the mid-point weigh in), I need to be closely monitoring my diet, getting 1-2 hours of exercise per day AND keeping up with the social media challenges… all while doing all of the other things that are important in my life, including my commitments to my family, work, school (FYI, I’m a half-time seminary student) and activism!

That’s a lot! There’s really no easy way to do this. I try to multi-task a lot (I’m getting better and better at reading while walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike) but that only gets me so far. And more than anything I have to stay motivated.

So, here’s what I’ve been doing thus far to handle stress…

1. Mindfulness – My counselor, Robert Rankin of Spero Counseling in Oklahoma City) has encouraged me to embrace mindfulness as a way to deal with the stress of living. Mindful activities include a lot of things including meditation, the use of mantras and even some kinds of exercise in which one seeks to be very present in the present moment.

I’m not great at meditation (I keep trying it though) but have found my best luck at practicing mindfulness through bicycling. The practice is simple. I just ride my bike, but I focus my attention and energy on the physical sensations of riding… the ways that my legs feel as I pedal, the way the wind feels on my face, the bumps of the road and the glorious sensation of movement. — Of course bicycling has the double benefit of also being exercise, something I need lots of in this contest.

2. Spirituality – It is interesting to me, that two of the major religious holidays for my family (the lenten season of Christianity and the Passover season of Judaism — our family is bireligious), both fall during the HealthKwest. So I’m trying to leverage that.

For lent, instead of giving up something like chocolate or TV, I’m instead giving up the idea of mental violence toward myself. I got this idea of the practice of nonviolence toward self from Father John Dear, a Catholic priest and peace activist, and have realized that I desperately need this in my life. For too long I have allowed a very vicious kind of inner self-dialogue to undermine me and keep me from doing the good things I need to do (including eating right and exercising). So I’m doing my best to change this pattern, using more affirmative self-talk and seeking to acept myself in all of my inner messyness.

For Passover, the theme of the holiday season is liberation, and so I’m seeking to understand liberation in a new way, in the context of my health and lifestyle. I don’t know exactly what things I will do yet to solidify this idea, but I want to engage with the theme of liberation in a real way this Passover season.

3. Relaxing with my wife – More than anything, she is the one who keeps me going and gives me hope. My life was forever transformed on the day she told me she loved me (almost 4 years ago!) and want to allow that love to continue to transform me.

Part of this is embracing the art of relaxation in our relationship. I am seeking to spend more time cuddled up with her on the couch watching TV, and more time eating indulgent (yet healthy) snacks. And of course I want to spend more time making love, which has many positive healthy side effects (see Webmd: 10 Surprising Health Benefits of Sex)… which sounds like a win-win to me! And of course I love the fact that lovemaking is tied to spirituality in the Jewish tradition (after all, it is a mitzvah to make love on Shabbat)

Lastly, I wanted to share a quote on the subject of stress.

β€œIn times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.”
― Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember

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