H-Town Run Tourist's Guide to Mental Health

9 hacks for reducing stress

Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com. Follow her on Twitter @jovanabernathy. Instagram @TourismGymHtx. Facebook @TourismGymHtx

Man, I had a tough week. I had three tours, five meetings, and a volunteer workshop. I made it through and managed to have some fun doing it, but it was super stressful. How was your week? If it was stressful like mine, it is definitely time for some self-care. Here are my favorite hacks to replenishing my mental health.

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Get some good quality sleep.

Have you ever noticed in the movies when someone has a nervous breakdown, the first thing the doctor does is sedate the patient? It doesn't have to be that severe for the most of us, but sleep, aside from food and water, is the most important thing we can do for ourselves. Studies show that poor sleep results in memory loss, poor judgment, weight gain, anxiety, depression, and a host of physical illnesses. Athletes know that sleep is a very important aspect to their recovery. This is when your mind resets and your muscles grow and repair themselves. Adults should strive for 7-9 hours of restful sleep every night.

Tip: Having trouble sleeping? Read a book. Anything from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle will do the trick.

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Stay hydrated with clean water.

What is your favorite drink? A Hopadillo? A Coke Zero? A Cosmo? As adults, we can have whatever we want, but making sure that we are keeping that good old dependable water around is key. Did you know that 85% of brain tissue is made of water? Did you also know that dehydration causes energy to the brain to decrease? That means brain fog, irritability and anxiety.

But, not all water is created equal. Tap water is full of harmful chemicals like lead. Lead, in water, can cause depression. Instead give reverse osmosis or alkaline water a try.

Hint: Whole Foods has a machine with a reverse osmosis filter. You can fill up multiple gallons of water for $1.50/gallon.

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Eat a nutritious diet.

How many times have we heard that? Not enough! If you are like me, you need constant reminders. Remember when we were kids before big tests, they always told us to eat a big breakfast. Keeping your brain and body fed reduces anxiety, stress, and depression. When you are hungry, your brain goes into scarcity mode. Have you ever noticed that you are moody when you are hungry? Then you make desperate decisions. If you eat properly, you will keep a level head.

Hint: Meal prep. Keeping your food ready to go keeps you on track. You stay out of scarcity mode meaning better decisions. The act of cutting vegetables and cooking is an act of self-care that promotes well being and good self esteem.

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Plan Ahead

While we have prepping on the brain, have you ever noticed, when you are well prepared, you feel confident and less stressed. Planning your week, your approach, your meeting keeps anxiety down because you took the time to research and expect the unexpected until they are expected. Here is a good example.

When I first started doing tours, I was a nervous wreck because I had bad planning. My time tables were off. My tours were always longer than what I said, and a few times, I had surprises on the route. I had a lot of stress and had to make a lot of apologies. Now, I know my routes well. Definitely less stress.

Hint: Use productivity apps on your phone. A number of apps already come on the phone. Also, if you have a Facebook page for your business, you can schedule meetings, appointments, and keep your contacts in one spot.

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Clean House.

I can't think of a better way to get organized and plan ahead than cleaning your house. Let's compare two scenarios:

You are tired. You can't stop thinking about your bed. As you turn the key to open your front door, you are greeted by the smell of clean linens and a clean home.

You are tired. you can't stop thinking about your bed. As you turn the key to open the front door, your greeted by the smell of something rotting in your trash and dirty sheets. Which would you rather? I love the smell of clean linens. As much as I hate emptying the trash, it really improves my self-esteem.

Hint: Set aside time regularly to clean your house. If you are super busy, clean one room at a time or clean as you go.

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Get moving.

Let's talk physical calibration. When running, as your legs are moving, you have to move your arms at the same speed. If your arms are moving faster than your legs, you run slower and are more discouraged. If you do not move your arms at all, your mechanics and posture are off. The same thing works with your brain. If your brain is moving a million miles a minute because you are stressed or super slow because you are depressed, you are out of calibration. If you were moving, your body would help balance that energy as a pick-me-up or an energy burner. If you don't believe me, try sitting while you are stressed. It is the worst time of your life like in traffic.

Hint: Next time you are stressed, take a walk, run, or bike ride. When you feel down, crank up the music and dance.

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Have a good laugh

They say that laughter is the best medicine and they are right. If you are stressed or feeling blue, a good laugh with give you a better perspective. It is a great reset. Look for anything that is funny. I'm a little weird, but I think one of the funnest things is watching a bird bathe. They look so funny. Whatever it takes. Just don't take yourself to seriously. I love watching Miss Congeniality. It always puts me in a good mood. Laugh and you will feel like you can conquer the world.

Hint: YouTube is amazing for recalling your favorite funny clips and it is always in your hand.

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Play classical music

The older I have gotten, I've noticed that sometimes DMX, Rage Against the Machine, and NIN do not cut it. I find that I would rather listen to pianists like Myleene Klass and Paul Cardall. They stimulate my brain and give me energy that lasts. It is proven that listening to classical music increases brain activity by increases dopamine secretion. It fights depression and the softer music helps put you to sleep.

Hint: Listen to classical music during sex. It makes it very energetic, dramatic, and memorable.

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Try something new.

When I say try something new, I do not mean meth or a threesome. I mean learn something you have never tried before. Pick up a leisure learning catalog and choose an activity. You never know. I did that in 2014. I started a blog called I Hope I Come Back Alive and it led to Houston Tourism Gym and this column. I have not had time to get depressed since. How about aerial yoga, a cooking class, a writing class, or an art workshop. It does wonders to surprise yourself and see what you are made of.

Hint: Look for interactive activities that are hands-on. Stay away from trying the new bar, restaurant, or brewery. It's fun, but you are still a spectator.


H-Town Run Tourist's Guide to Mental Health

Terry Hershey Park: My place of solace

Author's own.

Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com. Follow her on Twitter @jovanabernathy. Instagram @TourismGymHtx. Facebook @TourismGymHtx


When I need a serious reset, I jump in the car and and go to that parking lot under Beltway 8 and Memorial. I get my headphones, and my phone and just start walking. I'm talking about Terry Hershey Park. This out and back trail of about 12.5 miles has been my place of solace. This is the place where I began my journey into fitness. This is the place that brought me out of depression. I have used the rolling hills of Terry Hershey Park to train for my races, and I still come here to chill the f*** out. This is why:

Breathe in the beauty.

Author's own

There is beauty all around.

Terry Hershey Park is situated along Buffalo Bayou. There are all these trees that are overgrown with vines. It looks like a rainforest. It's like the trees befriended a vine and the vine showed them up. I don't know who is winning in this relationship. I think we are because it is beautiful. See how I just had this weird conversation in my head. Guess what I wasn't thinking about. The bad breakup I went through 5 years ago. Terry Hershey is also great during bluebonnet season. Many people visit to strike a nature pose. You can also use one of the many dedicated benches to reflect on your beautiful surroundings.

Shh! Keep quiet or you will scare them.

Author's own

The wildlife is abundant.

I really get a kick out of counting the different wildlife that I encounter. While preparing for the article, I tried to find all the insects, birds, and mammals that you will see in Terry Hershey. Too many to name so I will tell you my favorite stories.

This week, I saw 5 rabbits, some squirrels, a cardinal, lots of butterflies, a turtle, egrets and herons. There have been many times that I have seen 30 turtles just sunbathing. They are really scared of people so you have to be quiet or they duck back into the water. One time, I was running and almost ran into a huge spider hanging from its silk. I stopped to take pictures, but it wasn't having it. I waved bye-bye as it crawled up it's silk. I have also encountered poisonous snakes, but luckily, I saw them before they saw me. I can't help it, I'm a wildlife voyeur.

Walking or running, you get a great workout.

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You can train for challenging races.

Terry Hershey Park is a great place to train. As I stated before, you have 12.5 miles of trails to work with. Whether you are a walker, runner, biker, or canoeing is your thing, this is your place to train. There are some of the best hills in Houston here making it a challenge. There are different trails with different difficulty levels. If you are training for a trail race, you can take the more difficult unpaved trails which are great to work those supporting tendons. You can also get off the beaten path that is across the bayou that will really test you. Honestly, I still don't know how to get on it.

Worth the 4 mile run.

Author's own.

Personal Experience

You have probably gotten that this park is dear to me. Let me tell you about some of the fun times that I have had on it. I call it "fun with myself." Not like that. Brace yourself, This is silly. When you have moments like these, you just have to give yourself over to them. I was listening to classical music while running. All of a sudden a song from the Last of the Mohicans comes on. It was so dramatic, I felt like I was running across a meadow or the frontier. Every turn felt new. I really felt alive and guess what? I was actually running across a meadow because that is what Terry Hershey looks like. I never forgot it. But, you know what I did forget? The fact that my car needs yet a new tire and oil change.

If you are new to Houston, want some hill training, or just need to relax, do not hesitate to get on the Beltway. Exit Briar Forest and park in the parking lot just underneath. It will lead you to mental health heaven.

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