Reduce Stress by Spring Cleaning Your Body and Mind

There are many ways to reduce stress and anxiety in our lives. Spring is a time to brush the cobwebs off our New Year's resolutions and kick-start our bodies and minds into shape. The trick to any new start is realistic aims. You needn't starve yourself or enroll in 16 adult education classes to renew your body and mind. Just take it one step at a time.

  • In winter our bodies pack on the pounds to prepare us for the cold. To take them back off, remind yourself of how good it can feel to go for a nice long walk. Instead of looking out the window and hoping that the marginal gray sky means rain, schedule in at least two walks a week, rain or shine. Wear sensible clothing for the weather conditions and invest in a new pair of sneakers.

  • Find new routes around your neighborhood or explore nearby parks or reserves. Take your children on expeditions to the woods or ponds-show them how the season is beginning to change. You can take along a camera to record the plants or animals you might see and a journal for everyone to record their impressions or sketches. By the end of the year you will have a record of family outings to remind you of both the year and good times.

  • If you are game, join one new sports team, club or gym class. Learn to dance, play volleyball or shoot the perfect throw. Sports can be a once-a-week thing or a competitive commitment. Choose what is right for your schedule.

  • Some people just don't have the leisure time to think about some of these options. Consider small steps: Park the car or get off the bus a half a mile away from work and walk, take the stairs instead of the elevator or learn a few yoga and stretching moves and complete them while the kettle boils or you're waiting for the shower. Little by little, you'll feel a change.

  • Clean out your insides as well as your outsides. Enjoy the new season and take advantage of the fresh vegetables that will start to appear. Start small and eventually you will have made the shift to a healthier diet, without feeling like you've been deprived of what you like.

  • Begin by experimenting with a new breakfast cereal or routine. Instead of a cup of coffee and a donut or muffin, try a cup of coffee and a tasty protein-loaded cereal. Or vary the routine on the weekends by making fresh fruit smoothies with yogurt or scrambled eggs on whole grain toast for breakfast in bed.

  • Take a piece of fruit to the office for a snack in the mid-morning and replace your afternoon soda with a bottle of water. Try packing your lunch for a few days of the week. Salads in sealable containers, soups you can warm up in a microwave or wraps and sandwiches are not things you need necessarily spend lots of money on. Experiment with ingredients that you like at home on weekends and choose what you want for the week ahead.

  • Make a shopping list. List three suggestions for healthy dinners that can be made during the week and purchase ingredients ahead of time. If you have a plan for making spinach lasagna or chicken stir fry, you're more likely to stick to it if you have all the ingredients ready to go. If you're feeling organized, write it down somewhere where the whole family can see. Let your kids contribute their suggestions and then they can help with the meal preparation.

  • Take one indulgence that you buy every week (a chocolate bar, your favorite bag of cookies) and try replacing it with a slightly healthier alternative or a smaller version. Don't give up on your treats, just make them more manageable in size and scope.

  • People forget that health is not just simply related to the body. If you have a healthy mind, you are more likely to stick to a balanced diet and live well. Don't underestimate the importance of keeping the two in balance. Spring is a perfect time to remember that each day is new possibility.

  • The dark, winter months can make us sad or sometimes even lead to depression. With the prospect of sunshine on the horizon, try to approach the day with a positive slant. When you wake up in the morning, make a resolution to do one thing that day that will make you or someone else happy. Give your coworker a compliment, kiss your spouse or buy yourself flowers. If you cannot seem to find happiness in anything, consult your loved one or a doctor about ways to tackle the problem. Depression is a disease, and there are ways to treat it.

  • Organize an aspect of your life. Along with vacuuming the cobwebs off the ceiling corners, you can spring clean your finances. Tackle the drawer of unorganized bills or the messy desk of credit card statements. Invest in folders, dividers and a filing cabinet before you start. Having the equipment to manage the mess will make the whole process much smoother and faster.

  • Turn off the television and go to the library. Take two evenings in the week that you spend watching TV and start reading, writing or indulging in creative pursuits. Consult the papers for an interesting play or live music. Stretch your brain and make it think for itself.

  • Meet up with friends and extended family as much as possible. Schedule a semiconstant weekend or evening meeting and alternate which person plays host or hostess. Play paintball, go to a museum or simply chat. You can make is as organized as a book club or a poker competition, or you can just make it achievable. Volunteer to babysit your friend's kids in exchange for their services some other night, or take everyone out to a ball game or a local event.

Spring is traditionally the season of hope and birth. Give yourself a chance to enjoy it, and take a few steps to make each day a positive one.

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