Monday, November 23, 2015

#1 Way to Stress Less, Be Happy, and Laugh

The holidays are here. Thanksgiving, one of my favorite days of the year, is in 3 days. This year I'm celebrating Thanksgiving with my side of the family (we are little, but fierce) and I'll be making the short trek a couple of hours away to gorge on good food. I'm also, however, cooking a little Thanksgiving meal for just me and my little household the day after Thanksgiving. We have a little turkey and I've got some great new recipes I can't wait to try.

But even with the promise of good food looming on the horizon, and a month of festivities kicking off in a matter of days, I still find myself habitually prone to stressing the f out. It's like my own little piece-o-crap holiday tradition. Stress, worry, feel guilty about it all, then repeat.

And there's more to life than that. I'm going to be a middle-aged woman soon for frick's sake. I should be capable of handling Thanksgiving and Christmas without dissolving into a pile of tears and guilt every two days or so.

So, earlier this year, I started a de-stress experiment. And by experiment, I mean I tried something, started doing it almost everyday, and then decided the results were favorable enough to write about it here, at a time when I (and others) need the extra de-stress help.

I needed to implement a new habit into my life and being the picky little habit-maker I am, I outlined a few new-habit guidelines. I needed something:
  • Healthy - physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, whatever
  • Easy - no running/jogging, forcing myself to write when I don't wanna, or class commitments
  • Flexible - can do it at home, whenever the heck I please
  • Free - I don't have money
  • Enjoyable - gotta love it each and every time or I'll never do it again
  • Promotes self-love - no feeling guilty...about anything
  • Walks me through releasing anger - because this past year I'm getting angrier than a kicked hornet's nest and the anger is slowly destroying all chances of happiness
Not that bad, right? I mean, anything can fit the criteria above, right? ;)

But wait, there's more:
  • Inclusive - something I can do with my kids
  • Relatable - following Ree Drummond is all well and good until I start looking around my life and realizing I did not marry a cowboy or have a sprawling, million-dollar ranch with wild horses roaming around
  • Friendly - My feelings of failure follow me around like a dark shadow 99% of the time. I needed something that welcomed me like an old, non-judgmental friend
So yeah. Basically, I needed calorie-free ice cream that grows on trees and talks to me like Ellen DeGeneres.

Unfortunately, despite some heavy research, I could not find Ellen Edy's.

But I did find something else. Something better. Ok, maybe not better than calorie-free ice cream that grows in my backyard and talks to me like Ellen. But close.

You ready to finally hear what it is? Promise you won't click off the page once you see the word?


Now wait! Don't run away! Don't let any pre-conceived ideas ruin your chances at finding an enjoyable, funny, happy way to relieve stress!

Yoga is not all about perfect poses and bending all over and squeezing into tight pants and buying $50 yoga mats. Matter of fact, it's the opposite of that. 

I've done all kinds of yoga. I never stuck with it because I was pissed it didn't melt the fat right off my body. If I'm gonna exercise, it better be fat-melting. It better be worth the hour or so that I'm stretched out in front of my TV in roll-inducing yoga pants, lookin' like a holiday ham wrapped with twine. I did MTV yoga. I did "professional" yoga taught by ladies with national certifications. I did Self magazine yoga. I did flashcard yoga. I did a whole ton of yoga....but nothing stuck, nothing became habit. It's like I wanted to maximize my exercise time, which meant either blasting through cardio or doing some sort of body-damaging, lose-your-mom-bod boot camp crap. Those things have a place in my life, don't get me wrong, but they aren't a way to reduce stress, be happy, and laugh.

Yoga, when done right, shouldn't be about losing weight. Toning and tightening might be side effects, but weight loss? Think about it. The very concept behind weight loss is stressing your body enough to make it eat it's own fat. I mean, really. C'mon here, people. I'm going for stress-free, happy living here. Weight loss is none of those things. It just isn't. Physically and mentally, weight loss is stressful by its very nature.

So I took yoga out of the "drop pounds" picture completely. I shifted it from my mental "exercise" column to my mental "relaxation" column. And can I please tell you, that shift alone has changed the way I move through my practice. Instead of waiting for it to be over, I listen to Adriene and truly embrace what I'm doing. It's crazy healthy and really allows me to enjoy the "me" time.....because running 3-4 miles up hills doesn't feel like "me" time at all. It feels like punishment...another item to check off my list, another obligation...and after making that mental shift, yoga is now something I actually crave, even on days when I typically don't hit the mat (or in my case, carpet as I don't use a mat).

Oh yes, I forgot to mention....Adriene is my YouTube yoga girl. She is hilarious. She is real. She focuses on nothing but self-love. She is knowledgeable. She is peaceful. She films out of her own house. Sometimes her dog walks into the shot. Sometimes you hear motorcycles revving outside her house. Sometimes she messes up. Sometimes she says things like, "Get down, Shorty," or sings the opening song from The Lion King. She is a real human, a funny, relatable human, and I love, truly love tuning into her page and meeting her on the mat. She approaches everything with a sense of acceptance....and it's not the kinda boring, cheesy acceptance that makes you roll your eyes and think, "really? I didn't drink enough kale this morning to handle this much hippie..." That's not her. She's a friend. A YouTube friend who helps me chill out.

I promise, try one, silly, 20-minute video. You will be hooked like I am. There's no pressure, no stress, no guilt, and you'll leave the mat feeling clean and fresh and ready to tackle the next thing on your list.

And no, this is not a promotional blog post. No exchange of money, services, or whatever here. I just love her and like telling my readers about things I love.

Her Yoga for a Broken Heart video helped me through unspeakable hardship earlier this year.

A few of my other favorite (and free) online yoga videos by Adriene:

Yoga for Stress Relief

Yoga Love Flow

40 Minute Fat Burning Workout (I do this one when I'm real angry - it's a nice challenge!)

Detox Yoga for Digestion

Energizing Morning Yoga

Yoga for Back Pain

That's it, dear readers. Yoga is my #1 way to stress less, be happy, and laugh. I hit the carpet in my pajamas with my hair piled on top o' my head and my breath stinkin and I join Adriene as she laughs and breathes her way to a more relaxed, strengthened state of mind. It's fun, it's easy, it's free, and I feel nothing but acceptance when I'm done.

Any other yogis out there? Iva from Neuroscience Newbie I'm lookin at you! :) What other stress-relief tips do you guys have for me? I'd love to hear about them in the comments down below and as always, thank you so much for reading! 



  1. So true. Don't compare yourself to others. And laugh! I'm a yoga lover too. I love Leigha Butler on YouTube. She gets me to try way more difficult stuff at home than I would in a room full of people.

    1. Thanks Marie. I haven't checked out Leigha Butler yet - once I run out of videos to do with Adriene I will need to check her out! Thank you for stopping by! :)

  2. I'll give her a try, the back pain one caught my eye. I use Youtube videos to exercise...hopefully every day but not always every day. :) Because I too want something free and flexible and I will not go running with Angel.

    My doctor recommended Pilates or other strengthening and stretching exercises because I was having back pain a few years ago--basically because I'm a weakling. So I exercise mainly to keep my body strong enough not to hurt me. I definitely don't exercise to lose weight...if I did, that would be a bad thing. I love dancing, though stuff like pilates is probably better for me. I switch around from person to person and from video to video on a daily basis because I tend to get bored if I already know what the video is going to say next. :P

    Thanks for subscribing on Youtube. My family has been talking about new video ideas all week, we're gonna have fun together with this, I think. Better use of downtime, I guess, to create Youtube videos together than to watch them.

    1. Ooo the back pain one is the best. I am envious of you but completely understand what you are saying. I think the point of exercise should be to keep your body strong.....but see, I live in America. And we have Twinkies. HAHA Just kidding but seriously, I have willpower problems.

      I am excited to see what you guys come up with next on YouTube!! :)

  3. I paid extra to attend Pilates classes for a year at my former gym. They were a nice balance to my aerobic classes and I never hurt myself like I tend to do in weight/strength classes. But then came the recession and a pay-cut, so when it came time to sign up for the next session I decided I wasn't up for the class or the extra payments. I've taken yoga a few times when they were offered free, but really dislike my gym's instructor.

    This year I quit my gym and joined Jazzercise. So far so good.

    As to Thanksgiving we hosted my husband's family this year. I thought I was managing the stress fine, but woke up at 4:30 a.m. Thanksgiving morning and couldn't fall back to sleep. They stayed 'til after 10:00 p.m. so I was really tired and found an entire day of cooking and entertaining stressful.

    Hope you had a happy, stress-free Thanksgiving.

    1. Hi Savvy! I have missed you girl! Thanksgiving was a little nutty but all in all it was a great time with family, can't beat that. Sounds like your Thanksgiving was a bit of a crazy time! I bet your family appreciated all the hard work you put into the holiday, though. you're a good wife!!

      I am glad to hear you've found a class you like at the gym! I cancelled my gym membership for budget purposes and honestly, I only miss it a little teeny bit. Like now, when the weather gets too cold for me to run comfortably outside. Otherwise I'm pretty happy just doin' my thing around here. My lil house gym.

      Have a good week Sav!

  4. Jennifer you made me laugh along with your great points. What a wonderful way to start a Monday morning. My daughter has been nudging me toward yoga. I'm just starting to give it a try. I've also added weights to my week. Just trying to fight gravity and keep my balance. Funny how the goals change. :-)

    1. Aww, thank you Deb! Hahaha trying to fight gravity and keep your balance - those sound like perfect goals! I am right there with you!! Weights are fantastic - I need to pick those up more often. Do 3-year olds count?? Thank you so much for stopping by :)

  5. Great post! I'm a yoga lover too and will have to check out the video's you suggested. Glad you're loving it too and finding peace amongst the craziness!

    1. That is awesome! I love meeting fellow yogis!! Adriene's community is incredible. Every comment is so supportive - and she truly is like working out with a friend! Very laid-back and accepting. Hope you have a fantastic holiday season!!

  6. Good things to remember this time of year!

  7. Good for you Jen!

    I've got one that is actually free and takes less time. Appreciations. Do this by yourself or share them with a loved one: write 3 (or more) things from your day that you appreciate. They don't have to be huge, they can be as little as seeing a cute puppy, or getting a seat on the bus. And they should be different everyday.

    Not only does it train you to focus on some of the beautiful parts of your day that you may not have taken time to notice and absorb before, but if you're sharing with someone else you get to hear about what's happening in their world too.

    Challenge yourself to 30 days and you'll probably find you'll want to keep going. I email 3 people each day, and I love hearing what is going on in their lives.

    1. Raj your comment touched my heart. I love the idea of starting each day with a mental list of things I am grateful for. I sometimes need to be reminded that the things that stress me out aren't really that important, anyway. And the part about sharing with someone else?? That is gold, right there.

      Thank you for the incredible idea and for stopping by the blog! I appreciate YOU and your comment!! :)

  8. I am usually a ball of stress this time of year starting his year...and, while I used to do yoga regularly I have been inconsistent over the last year or two, and I do think its had a negative impact on my health and stress levels. Thank you for sharing these links, I am really going to try to incorporate some yoga so I can make it to Christmas in one piece! :-)

    1. Sounds awesome Jean! I can totally relate to the stress and the slowly-sliding-away workout schedule. Adriene's videos are perfect for maintaining my practice because she has some that are as short as 20 minutes and others that are like 1.5 hours long. I never need to feel guilty because I get it done every day - 20 minutes is too easy! :) Thanks for stopping by Jean, hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

  9. I'm with you on the stress and I know I need to do more yoga, especially since there's a free weekly class less than a mile from my home. I know. Someone should just smack me

    1. Oooooo! A free weekly class!?!? Jump on that! To be honest, I get a little nervous working out in front of others, hence the home YouTube practice. But I'd give it a try if I had a free class available. Consider yourself smacked!! :) haha lightly. With grace. And friendship. Haha

  10. I love this! We all need a little de-stressing, and yoga is such a good way to do that. Great article! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you Sarah! I know typically people think yoga and think "meh, I'm not flexible and I don't have the time," but I promise I am 5 times as lazy and unmotivated and this practice with the YouTube and my PJs works! :) So glad you stopped by! Have a wonderful holiday season!

  11. I tend to be a bit of a high-strung stress monster and people ALWAYS tell me I should try yoga -- and it's funny, I never did because I felt the same as you...if I'm gonna exercise, I wanna sweat and get my heart rate going and feel like i'm burning fat. But if you take a different approach like you did, and use yoga more for your mind - I'm sure it's way more beneficial. Will check these out!

    1. Yes!! It is my new equivalent to reading Yahoo news and messing around on Facebook, to be honest. That is what I was accustomed to doing in the early hours of the morning while getting my kids ready for school. Now we all stretch out together. I promise it is way more rewarding than Yahoo news haha!