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.


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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

While I was training for the Honolulu Marathon in 2009, I learned something very important. I was running late for training, but I needed something in my stomach. I had run out of bananas and did not have time to make some eggs and toast. I opened my refrigerator and grabbed the first thing that was close enough: a plum. It was juicy and delicious. I forgot one thing: that a plum is an unripe prune. Everything was great until about mile 15. I started to get that call. You know the one that says get to the bathroom fast. All I could see is a port-o-let. I didn't want to, but I had too. Of course, there was no toilet paper or soap or sanitizer. Gross! If you think that is bad, read on for the grossest things about running a marathon.

Snotty nose.

As you can imagine, running against the wind and in the cold can cause your nose to run. This is always a gross thing because most of the time, you do not have tissue. Most runners just let it fly off with the wind. It is really fun to talk to someone after their run when they have an "eagle" in the sky. This time, it is okay to refuse the handshake.

Bloody nipples.

This disgusting aspect of running typically only plagues men. Thanks to the sports bra, ladies usually don't deal with this. Bloody nipples happen when the runner's shirt chafes his nipples. After 26.2 miles, his chest looks like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. If this happens to you, you are not alone. There is a wonderful product called Body Glide to help prevent the carnage.

Urinating on the course.

Maybe you had a time goal and stopping to use the port-o-potty would slow you down or you just could not hold it. There is a reason at the expo that they sell bladder pads for the ladies. Elite runner, Paula Radcliffe, professional marathoner from England has had her instances. In the 2005 marathon, she had to relieve herself in the street on course in front of cameras and reporters. She quickly recovered from the embarrassment because she won.

Pooping on yourself.

Urinating is one thing, but pooping is quite another. I was able to find a port-o-potty in time, but what if you can't? Many runners have had to do the doo on course. This marathon olympian could not wait until he crossed the finish line. Good news for him. He did take the lead and won the race.

Please take heed to my warnings, but don't let that keep your from trying and running a marathon. Invest in Body Glide, bladder pads for the active, and a small bag of keener. As far as the pooping, I always pack Imodium AD. It really works!

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