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In trying to be healthy, we tend to focus on just diet and/or exercise and jump from one quick fix to another. But most of us struggle with our health and can’t seem to figure out how to make sustainable improvement. I believe that we don’t focus enough on the most profound factor affecting our health: chronic stress.

Human beings have a magnificent stress response, but now our stress response is simply being overtaxed. We’re not handling the steady stream of modern-world stress without quality recovery time. This modern world stress can come from poor diet, financial stress, environmental pollutants and more. Try as we might to avoid it, this level of repeated/chronic stress weakens us over time and we’re are paying the price physically and mentally.

I believe the answer lies not in trying to avoid stress, but rather in focusing our efforts on the recovery time between the stressful periods. In doing so, we give the body a better chance of restoring itself before the next, often inevitable, stress comes. We can do this adding the following:

1. Nutrition

Better nutrition gives the body a fighting chance to counteract the physical effects of chronic stress—weakened immune system, poor digestion, high blood pressure, extra weight, autoimmune disease etc. This means foods that are high in micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, antioxidants) and fiber.

2. Balanced movement

Exercise that enhances health and doesn’t add stress. Both too little and too much exercise add stress. Find movement that you enjoy and that doesn’t wear you out even more!

3. Deep Breathing/Meditation

Meditation can be single deep breaths taken throughout your day—little ‘recovery’ moments that help ground you, reconnect you, and calm you down before going back into the world!

4. Creative Pursuits

Playing a musical instrument, dancing, drawing/coloring, writing are all incredible ways to recover. Start small—a doodle on a piece of paper is an excellent place to start.

5. Healthy relationships

Many of us are so busy that we lose contact with people in our lives that bring us joy. Try shooting a good friend with whom you’ve lost contact a quick text telling them you’re thinking about them and sending them your love—you’ll quickly see how good it makes them AND you feel!

Focusing on recovery teaches us to truly take care of ourselves, and ensure chronic stress is kept to a minimum.

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