Hi! I’m Jenna. Welcome to The Spark Wellness Newsletter. I’m a holistic mental wellness coach. I operate at the intersection of mental health, self-care, nutrition and REAL LIFE.
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- Strategies for managing stress and overwhelm
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Change is Stressful
Our brains and our bodies are resistant to change. We have built-in systems to maintain homeostasis. They keep our body functions stable and consistent. This helps to keep us alive, so it's a good thing.
According to our bodies, if what we are doing is keeping us alive and safe in the present moment everything is good. This means that change is seen as a threat. Even when we know that change can produce long-term benefits and we understand that it will take some effort to get the results we want, our bodies will resist.
Change produces stress in our bodies. Our bodies naturally want to return to what's familiar because that was keeping us safe and alive. This makes it more challenging to make changes, especially without support.
Let's look at an example from my life.
Step 1: Set a Goal
A few years ago (pre-COVID), I decided I need to get in shape so I could keep up with my kids. I had lots of mom friends who were runners who seemed to find it a good way to get some time for themselves and to stay active.
So, even though I hated anything to do with running in school, I decided to take a running course.
I've taken enough goal-setting courses to know I needed a goal to work towards. I found a course for beginners to prepare us to run a 5 km race. The course was set up to prepare for a specific race at the end of 10 weeks, so there was a clear goal: Run a 5 km race.
I figured if I could learn to run and complete a 5 km race, I'd be able to keep up with my kids and be the fun, active mom I imagined I could be.
I now know that running a 5 km race takes at least 45 minutes (for a beginner like me). At that point, I had no idea what I was aiming for, so I was naive enough to take the first step.
Step 2: Have a Plan for Incremental Change
Now, the people who designed the running course knew something about learning to run. They knew it would take practice (3 runs a week) and it would take time to reach our goals (10 weeks). By taking this long to prepare for the race, they could use the power of small changes to produce results.
For the first running class, we actually walked more than we ran. We started by walking for 2 minutes and then running for 1 minute. For a complete beginner, this plan made me feel great. I survived my first running class! I wasn't stiff or exhausted. I felt like maybe this goal was achievable.
For the second run, we did the exact same thing! We didn't have to do anything harder. We just got comfortable and built our confidence.
And for the third run that week, we did it again! No stress, no pressure, just practicing what we'd learned - and proving we could do this!
In the second week, we walked for 1 minute and ran for 1 minute during our class. This change felt like a small stretch, but it was manageable. And seeing that I could already run twice as much as the week before made me feel more confident.
We continued to run a little bit further each week - and we kept taking breaks for walking. We gently stretched ourselves a little further and we took time to rest.
Step 3: Track Your Progress and Celebrate Your Success
In the last week, we ran the same route as we did in Week 1. By the last week, we were running for 10 minutes and then walking for 1 minute. In the first 10 minutes of running that evening, we went further than we had gone in the whole walk-run cycle for our first class. And, then we did another 20 minutes of running!
I felt amazing as I actually ran 10 minutes without stopping. I have to admit I was surprised I'd completed the 10-week course.
Step 4: Repeat
While I liked the idea of being able to run and the conversations with the other women in the class during the runs, I was definitely not becoming a runner. Other than completing the required runs for the classes I missed, I haven't ever gone running by myself or just for fun.
But, what I did learn from the class was the power of making small changes. By gradually increasing the amount we ran, and by staying at each level long enough to feel comfortable and confident, it was possible to go from barely being able to race my kids to the corner to actually finishing a 5K race.
This is the same approach I use with my clients. We set a goal and then identify the small changes that can help create a new habit. And then set up a plan to practice small changes until they feel comfortable and familiar.
By making small changes, you can sneak by your brain's natural resistance to change.
Small changes produce quick successes so it is easier to feel better about your efforts, which makes it easier to stick with a new habit.
Click here to be the first to know about my newest program, which will help you find ways to reduce the impact of chronic stress on your body and implement supportive nutritional and lifestyle changes so you feel happier and healthier. It will integrate strategies to help you make graduals sustainable changes.
Take care and be well,
Check out my latest blog post: 4 Ways to Calm Your Mind and Body When You're Feeling Overwhelmed
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