Feeling stressed?

stressedIn the last post, I closed with the idea that as parents we have to take care of ourselves if we’re going to take care of our families.

Here’s where it gets personal.

Fathering is stressful and it’s different for everybody. Everyone has a different threshold for stress and different ways of dealing with it.

One thing holds true for just about everyone, however. Exercise helps.

Henry David Thoreau said it best: “Good for the body is the work of the body, good for the soul is the work of the soul, and good for either is the work of the other.”

I’m no health nut, but I make it a point to get in a few solid workouts a week. Nothing crazy. Just enough to keep the edge off.

The thing that I, and most people, struggle with in terms of exercise is finding the time. There’s always something I need to do, or would rather do.

It took me a long time to realize that if I make it a point to find an exercise I enjoy, I’ll be more likely to find the time. It’s pretty basic – it’s easy to do the things we like.

Personally I run, swim, bike and, thanks to my mother for the birthday gift, I started strength training with (O.K., you’re gonna laugh) … the Iron Gym.

The commercial is silly, no doubt and I swear to you, until now I’ve never owned a single as-seen-on-TV piece of exercise gear in my life – but for $30, this thing is really great. It hangs there, in the doorframe in the hallway and taunts me. “Come on, don’t be a sissy … let’s see you crank out 8 pull ups right now.”

I’m addicted. It’s too easy. It’s right there. I don’t have to go to the gym. I don’t even have to change into workout clothes. I couldn’t do 3 pull-ups when I got it a month ago. But like I said … the taunting. Now, I’m up to 3 sets of 8 every other night. That’s nearly 100 pull-ups in a week. I’m stronger, look better, feel better and am far less stressed.

As a man, I don’t think it’s possible to have it hanging up there in the doorframe and not eventually start cranking em’ out every few days. In fact, I rounded the corner to catch my wife hanging from it a few days ago. She claims she was just hanging from it to stretch her back … hmmm. “Oh really Dear, then how do you explain those suddenly bulging back muscles?”

But maybe pull-ups just aren’t your thing. That’s OK. But what is? Figure that out, and you’re on your way. But, because we’re busy parneting, there are some limits – as I learned.

Truth be told, my favorite thing to do is hike. Growing up, I spent more time in the woods then anywhere else. Fast forward to a few months after our first son was born when I took a “little” hike to blow off some steam that had built somewhere between, oh I dunno, weeks of listening to an ear splitting cry all night long and being my wife’s verbal punching bag.

So I escaped into the nearby woods. Two and half hours later, I returned. I could hear the baby still wailing as I walked through the door. I looked at the clock and then at my wife, who, in the “short” time I was gone, had managed to fill her fists with tuffs of her own hair.

It was pretty clear that 3 hour hikes a few times a week might not work out. At least not for a few years anyway.

But was does work is making it a habit, which I have, to take the stairs instead of an elevator every day. Maybe you work in building that has a lot of floors. (Mine has 8 for perspective) If you can’t walk all of them, take the elevator, but only to a couple of floors below yours, and them walk the rest of the two or three flights up.

Instead of driving around to find a parking spot closest to the entrance at the grocery store or the mall, I purposely look for a spot farthest away, and then I walk the distance. Add it, plus the stairs, up over a month, and we’re talking about some big numbers that make a big difference in one’s well being.

Without having time to go to the gym – nor do I don’t have a job that affords me a physical workout (unless you consider the desk rodeo exercise) – finding ways to incorporate exercise into my daily routine has paid off big in curbing stress.

But the best thing of all is that my kids see me doing it. It’s not like dad disappears out of sight for a few hours to go to the gym. When I say on a Sunday, “I’m going for a quick run,” they hear it, and see me suiting up and stretching. When they see me doing pull-ups or push-ups just before dinner, they want to do them to. So we do. Our oldest will always drop and crank out 10 push-ups with me if I ask him to. I’ll hang our one-year-old from the pull-up bar, with my hands still on his hips, and he just beams from ear to ear. I don’t know what it is. He just really likes hanging up there trying to get his chubby little double chin up over that bar.

Kids pick up far more from what we show them than what we tell them. And I hope the message I’m sending to mine is that good health is just a normal, integrated part of everyday life.

My four-year-old has already started asking about running with me this spring. It won’t be long before he starts taunting, “Come on dad don’t be a sissy … let’s go one more mile.”

What about you? Have you discovered what do you love to do, and turned it into exercise? Help us share it with others in the comments please! 

Best and thanks,

L.P.

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2 Responses to “Feeling stressed?”

  1. Becky Says:

    I have learned that when ever you are rushed, the more behind you get and the more you calm yourself the more time you have. A lot of time I find myself ‘speeding up’ and getting filled with anixiety, I’ve found that doing breathing exercises and pep talking myself with “everything is going to be okay, relax, if your five minutes late then thats just it, nothing MAJOR,” and it helps calm me and I’ll ‘magically’ get there on-time. I’ve also found that singing while your in the car to what ever emotion you may feel the need to release helps me relieve some of the stress. But the best thing for me emotionally, mentally and psyically is exercising regularly. Lately the shifts of my time schedule botches it up but I agree 100% on that it is the most theraputic way (next to my art work).

  2. danigary Says:

    1. Yoga. I find yoga and the peaceful serenity that it creates to be incredibly therapeutic! It is challenging, forces me to become centered again, and allows my body to release all of those bad hormones that cause stress. There are many varieties of yoga, so for me it is important to keep on mixing it up so as to not get in a rut with my exercise routine…
    2. The best gift that I’ve ever received in my life was the gift of Gram’s Green Thumb! When I am feeling overly stressed I grab a bag of dirt, and something green – and I plant it in our backyard. Sure, the gym is helpful. But I truly find the most stress relieving activities to be those that are in nature. Hiking with the dog, digging in the dirt (the dog loves that too;) or just staring out over the lake. Me + Nature = Bliss.

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