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These days, it's easy to get bogged down in bad news and bad habits. Relaxing and indulging in "me time"? Ah, the luxuries of yesteryear.
But taking time out to re-juice and rejuvenate has never been more important. "We're in the middle of a human energy crisis," says Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, author of From Fatigued to Fantastic, who blames lack of sleep, dehydration, and bad nutrition as the primary culprits. "We're in a constant state of high alert when we don't have to be."
To offset the stress from these manic times, Teitelbaum urges people to detach from news overload, get eight hours of sleep nightly, and take their vitamins (B-Complex and magnesium supplements, plus a daily multivitamin).
But in order to truly refresh your perspective and reinvigorate your energy levels, you're going to need a mind-body overhaul. For the next two days, forget your 30 unread e-mails, the looming office deadlines, and the fact that the dirty laundry keeps piling up. We've got your 48-hour at-home rejuvenation plan right here, all with the aim of re-booting your internal hard drive and jumpstarting a new outlook on life.
Hydrate your cells. Upon waking up, drink a full glass of water, and fill your water bottle while you're at it -- you'll be drinking all day. "Many people are chronically dehydrated, which causes fatigue and a lack of vitality," says Dr. Teitelbaum, who cites our addiction to diuretics like coffee and soda, both of which cause us to lose more water than we get.
Stretch out. DeAnna Pierce-Murray, Movement Therapist for Canyon Ranch in Tucson, has Ranch visitors start with sun salutation yoga stretches, which move the spine in the six basic directions that wring out tension and energize the nervous system.
Awaken your senses. Wear something with an invigorating color, such as a red, orange, or yellow scarf. Or dab an uplifting scent on your scarf, neck, or wrists, like bergamot or lemon -- they help calm your brain and lift your mood. According to a 2006 study in the scientific journal Behavioural Brain Research, natural lemon oil possesses anti-anxiety, antidepressant-like effects by suppressing dopamine activity.
Green your caffeine. Instead of your usual tall Americano, switch to green tea. It boosts the body's production of detoxifying enzymes while giving you a gradual energy lift, with 70 percent less caffeine than your usual java. It's also metabolized more slowly, so you avoid the afternoon caffeine crash.
Eat your oatmeal. For breakfast, try a cup of steel-cut oatmeal topped with cinnamon, apples, and walnuts (1 ounce). Steel-cut is a high-fiber, natural oatmeal that's much better for you than the pre-packaged kind, which is often loaded with sugar. "Processed foods, excess sugar, and white flour have wiped out 36 percent of our vitamins and minerals," says Dr. Teitelbaum. Adding apple and walnuts will give you fiber, protein, and cholesterol-reducing omega 3s while helping to even out your energy levels. And the cinnamon adds a no-calorie flavor to please your taste buds.The A.M. Work Routine
Energize your breathing. At Canyon Ranch, the first thing guests are taught is how to get more oxygen into their system. "Rejuvenation begins with the stretching of the spine and the expanding of the lungs," says Pierce-Murray. "The chest is so compressed in people who are stressed. When you're sitting in a chair all day, you're not challenging your body, and you're not taking deep breaths."
To get your heart rate up and your mind sharp, sit at your desk and practice "energized breathing": inhale with 3-5 short "sniffing breaths" through your nostrils, followed by one long exhale out. Repeat at least 3 times.
Break for a snack. Two hours after breakfast, it's time for a high-protein treat. The Canyon Ranch recommendation: Celery sticks (1 cup) with almond butter (2 tablespoons). Almonds are a great source of protein, vitamin E, and magnesium, which helps improve blood flow and reduces cramps and headaches, says Teitelbaum.
Warm up for the day with meditation. Before you start tackling that to-do list, take a 10-minute time-out and shut your office door, or find a quiet place where you can sit comfortably in a chair and focus on deep breathing. "The goal is to warm the body with circulation and stimulate the tissues, while also focusing the mind," says Pierce-Murray. Her suggestion: Picture your lungs as two balloons inflating all the way, until you feel the sides and lower lungs expanding. When they are completely full, then you can slowly exhale.Lunchtime
Enliven the spine. Take a break from hunching over your desk all morning. From your chair, arch the back a little bit, bend forward, take turns stretching to each side and rotating in each direction. "Enlivening the spine will help you breathe deeper, which clears the mind and wakes up the body," says Pierce-Murray.
Eat, drink, and be merry. To adopt the spa mind-set, "Get away from your desk and eat with other people in a pleasant atmosphere," suggests Deborah Kesten, MPH, a certified wellness coach and co-author of Enlightened Eating. "This way you're bringing your attention to the food, really tasting it and savoring it." Moreover, eating with positive emotions helps us to better metabolize food.
For lunch, Raina Ericson, MS, RD, the nutritionist at Canyon Ranch Miami Beach, recommends a grilled Mediterranean vegetable sandwich made with eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, and squash, with an ounce of goat cheese on whole-grain bread. "In order to rejuvenate, you'll need to start fresh with a clean slate, and this means getting nutrients that are detoxifying and aid digestion," she says. This sandwich has a rich variety of heart-healthy vegetables, with the goat cheese providing more protein and less fat than other cheeses.
Relax your breathing. As the stresses of your day accumulate, you'll want to shift your focus from energizing to calming. "Just by practicing deep breathing, you learn to focus, oxygenate the body, and energize the tissues," Pierce-Murray says. It also lowers your blood pressure and stimulates the parasympathetic response, forcing the body to relax. "Once you move into physical calm, then the mind calms down." Take 5 minutes for some deep breathing, and follow this trick for de-stressing: Practice exhaling twice as long as you inhale. It'll activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which can calm you down and lower your heart rate.
Change your environment. Even if you can't leave your office, mentally transport yourself any way you can, like finding a new tropical-theme computer screensaver and smoothing on some coconut-scented hand lotion. "It helps induce the conditioned response of being on vacation, and makes you feel same degree of relaxation and happiness as if you were on the beach or a cruise," says Alan Hirsch, MD, founder of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago.
Juice yourself. Two hours after lunch, it's time for a rejuvenating juice drink. Ericson's rec: pineapple, apple, cucumber, and ginger, ingredients that invigorate while aiding digestion.
Roll like a ball. To weave in some stretching, Pierce-Murray recommends taking a break for some simple Pilates exercises. "Pilates makes people present, fully awake and fully alert," she explains. Her rec: the "roll like a ball" exercise, which you can do on any rug or thick mat that protects your spine. To make it more challenging, once you stop rolling, lift your feet up and balance.
Get physical. If you've been sitting all day, you'll want to do something more physically active after work, like take an active yoga or Spinning class. "Spinning is great because the instructor uses uplifting music and takes you on a mental journey," says Pierce-Murray. Plus you get a great cardio workout and the motivation of a group, while still controlling your pace and the bike's resistance levels.
If a class feels like too much, try going for a walk with your iPod -- and listen to your favorite music, says Kesten. However, "Be realistic about your life and lifestyle, what's possible and what isn't. People get overly ambitious and fall short. If you hate exercise, you could do fine with a walk around the block. It's about turning inward to make decisions about what's gratifying and satisfying for you."
Up your antioxidants. Emotional and physical stress of any kind increases the production of free radicals, which can take a toll on our cells. So Ericson enriches her meal plan with as many antioxidants as possible, which help neutralize free radicals and prevent cell damage.
For dinner, try grilled skinless chicken breast (3 ounces) with a side of quinoa (1/2 cup) and broccoli (1 cup).
For dessert, try organic nonfat plain Greek style yogurt (1 cup) with organic berries (1/2 cup) and flaxseed (1 tablespoon).
Greek style yogurt is higher in protein and lower in sugar, especially when you get plain and sweeten it yourself. And flaxseed adds fiber and omega 3s, which are important for decreasing inflammation, a "stress effect" and the root cause of chronic diseases like irritable bowel syndrome, joint pain, heart disease, and diabetes.
Get inspired. Read to yourself for at least a half hour. "It can be anything that inspires you, like the Dalai Lama's Happiness," says Pierce-Murray, "but it's really important to our well-being."
Aum your lullaby. Take 10 minutes to decompress with the help of the vibratory sound of "aum." "If you practice saying the sound 'aum' over and over, it works as a breathing exercise and focuses your mind, which creates a form of meditation," says Pierce-Murray. "You'll feel the sound resonate in your stomach, chest, and forehead area -- which together helps stimulate the endocrine glands, also important for detoxifying and rejuvenating."
Let yourself sleep in! Sleep is critical for our immune function and our psychological well-being, says Dr. Teitelbaum. "The average night sleep has dropped from nine hours a night to six and a half over the course of 100 years." So by all means, take nine hours if you feel like it!
Breakfast. Eat mindfully -- since it's Saturday, you can take more time for breakfast and focus on meditative eating. The goal is to slow down and be more aware of your food, appreciating all of its benefits.
Ericson's recommendation: a vegetable omelet (one whole egg plus one egg white) with half a cup of sliced tomatoes, onions, and kale. Onions have important anti-inflammatory properties, while kale offers a concentrated source of calcium and antioxidants. Both are great for lowering stress levels. Pair the omelet with a slice of dry whole wheat toast and a medium-size orange.
Focus on breathing. As you go through your weekend to-do list, focus on inhaling deeper and exhaling longer, expanding your rib cage and standing up straight. This way you'll let the oxygen completely fill your lungs and circulate better through your system.
Snack smart. Take a break for whole-grain crackers and hummus (1/3 cup), which offers protein, fiber, and folate, a key ingredient for heart health.
Mini massage. For a quick pick-me-up, take your thumb and forefinger and massage the outer part of your ears. "This will stimulate all the acupuncture points," says Dr. Teitelbaum, "and give you a quick energy boost."
Lunch smartly. Ericson recommends grilled salmon salad with organic leafy greens (2 cups), organic strawberries (1 cup), and almonds (1 ounce). Squeeze lemon over it and add extra virgin olive oil. The almonds and olive oil are rich with de-stressing nutrients and contain the good fats that keep you fuller longer.
Get out and have fun. If you've been planning on going somewhere today -- running errands at the post office, for instance, or meeting a friend for coffee -- try to get there without the use of a car or public transportation. Walking, biking, jogging, or rollerblading will all get your blood flowing and get you to your final destination.
Bring your snack. Feeling an energy dip? Try dried unsweetened apricots (6) with low-fat cottage cheese (1/2 cup). The combo of carbs and protein will help fill you up while keeping blood sugar and energy levels stable.
Afternoon nap. Rest is one of the most important ingredients for rejuvenation. Transport yourself to the spa with a few simple tricks: Dab some lavender oil on a slightly wet towel and toss it in the dryer for 10 minutes on high heat. When you're ready to nap, place a pillow under your knees and another at your lower back, then drape yourself in the warm towel. Add cucumber slices over your eyes, and you'll be ready to let all your worries drift away.Dinnertime
Go Mexican. Get your protein for minimal calories with this easy dinner: Black beans (1/2 cup), brown rice (1/2 cup), fresh salsa, and guacamole (2 tablespoons). You may think you're missing something, but this is actually a well-balanced meal rich in antioxidants, fiber, healthy fat, and two ingredients that are lacking in most women's diets: iron and magnesium.
Dessert! Even at Canyon Ranch, desserts are part of the plan, like a colorful scoop of sorbet -- it's light, hydrating, and easy.
Get off the couch. Look for a dance class or head to an upbeat live music concert that gets your feet moving. Dancing is not only a great social activity, but it also helps build your stamina, bump your heart rate up, and get your endorphins going.
"You simply can't keep yourself from dancing when there is live music," says Pierce-Murray.
Tea time. Make yourself some chamomile tea and bring your inspiring book to bed with you, along with two more cucumber slices for your eyes.
Sleep in. You've earned yourself a deep calm and a good night's sleep, with no alarm clock setting. So let your thoughts float away and the sleep wash over you. Says Pierce-Murray: "The deeper you can relax and let go, the deeper the healing."Continuing the Calm
When the two days are up, check in with yourself psychologically --- how do you feel, and what were the benefits of your plan? What worked for you and what didn't? Which of the exercises and changes can you keep incorporating into your daily life? "If you're staying with bad habits, ask yourself what you're getting out of it," says Kesten. "Decide to make changes, then envision what it will look like to continue making them."
Most importantly, home in on the activities and meals you enjoyed most over the two days and recruit your favorite buddies to join you for more of them. "Joseph Campbell had it right when he said 'follow your bliss,'" says Dr. Teitelbaum. "Do what feels good so you stick with it. Use your will power to get out there and show up, and once you're there, just have fun!"
To maximize your zen, hit the grocery store and gather the following supplies before you start your two days of uninterrupted recharge.
Grocery Shopping List
Eggplant, peppers, squash
Skinless chicken breast
Organic nonfat plain Greek style yogurt
Salmon (3 ounces)
Organic leafy greens
Extra virgin olive oil
Dried unsweetened apricots
Low-fat cottage cheese
Large water bottle
Bergamot or rosemary essential oils
Lavender or chamomile essential oils
An inspiring book
Lavender or chamomile soy scented candle
Running shoes/dancing shoes
Originally published on FitnessMagazine.com, July 2009.