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

10 Reasons why we love Buffalo Bayou Park

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

Aside from our hospitality and our restaurant scene, I truly believe that Houston's parks are the city's pride and joy. Let' say it together with pride, "HOUSTON PARKS ARE BADASS!" One park that stands out is Buffalo Bayou Park. It is that 160 acres of green space between Shepherd Dr. and the Mosbacher Bridge. It is An amazing networkof hike and bike trails and the best natural tourism of Houston. So many reasons to love Buffalo Bayou Park. Here are mine!

Courtesy of Buffalo Bayou Partnership

1. It is a great place to train.

I have used Buffalo Bayou Park to train for all of my marathons. It is a great connector to other parts of the city like Downtown, the Heights and Montrose. It keeps your run interesting with hills, flowers, and wildlife. It is also a great place to add mileage to your runs.

2. So Many Awesome Events.

Buffalo Bayou is home to some of Houston's best events. These are held at resident venues such as the Bud Lite Amphitheater, Eleanor Tinsley Park, and the Water Works at Buffalo Bayou. Enjoy weekly 45 minute session of Sunrise Yoga at the Water Works. All ages and fitness levels welcome. Mark your calendar for the upcoming Houston Margarita Festival, the Houston Press Tacolandia, and Octoberfest Houston 2019.

3. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities.

It takes a lot of donations to make a place like Buffalo Bayou Park possible. $58 million in fact. Not all of us have that kind of cash lying around, but we still have two valuable resources to offer: time and energy. Buffalo Bayou Park has plenty of ways to put your good time and energy to. You can volunteer to restore and protect the lovely trails of Buffalo Bayou. You can do this by weeding and picking up debris. Every third Saturday is designated as Volunteer Day where groups and individuals are welcome to join.

Violet Coneflower

Arthor's own

4. Houston's best place for natural views, wildlife, and foliage.

One of my favorite things about running and walking in Houston, is taking pictures of trees, flowers, and natural settings. There are plenty of opportunities to do so in Buffalo Bayou Park. You have your pick: Live oak trees, wildflowers, jumping fish, even the occasional alligator. Nothing compares to the bat colony on Waugh Bridge. Whenever you are running and you smell this overwhelming stench, don't look at your running partner, its actually 250,000 Mexican bats that live under Waugh Bridge. You can see these bats emerge most nights at dusk to feast on the many bite size insects that drive us crazy.

the Kitchen at Dunlavy

Arthor's own

5. Home to the Kitchen at Dunlavy

Look past the Lost Lake and you will find a fantastical tree house restaurant called the Dunlavy. The restaurant, brought to you by Clark Cooper Concepts, serves breakfast and lunch everyday. It was voted "One of the World's Most Romantic Restaurants by CNN. To Houstonians, its the best place for weddings and Super Bowl Parties. During the day, it is counter restaurant service for breakfast and lunch. It is a go to for smoothies, breakfast bowls, croquet madame, cheese and charcuterie boards, and of course, the Dunlavy burger. But on the weekends, get there quick, because it fills up fast and you will be out there with the lily pads.

Beautiful downtown view

Arthor's own

6. The Best Downtown Views

My tourists really love taking pictures of the Downtown Skyline. Buffalo Bayou Park is home to some of my favorite views. For the best views, stop at Sabine Promenade and smaller bridges towards downtown. When you are about to walk into Downtown, don't forget to take in the amazing view from Mosbacher Bridge.

Police Officer's Memorial

Arthor's own

7. Let's honor our Fallen at the Police Officer's Memorial.

The Police Officer's Memorial. If you are traveling into Downtown from Memorial Drive, chances are you have passed this amazing structure. This memorial serves as a public recognition of sacrifices that have been made by police officers to carry out their duties. This is especially for the officers who have died in the line of duty. The memorial, including the names of over 100 fallen police officers, is made of pink granite in the shape of a Greek Cross with a pyramid for the center. You can honor these officers on the annual wreath laying ceremony.


inside the Cistern

​Katy’s Horner/Slight Clutter Photography 

8. Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern

This structure, the size of one and a half football fields, lay dormant as one of Houston's best kept secrets. That was until 2015 after the reopening of Buffalo Bayou Park. The Cistern, built in 1926, was used as the city's water reservoir for drinking water storage and fire suppression. Due to a leak, it was decommissioned in 2007. Today, you can enjoy tours and photography sessions inside. It has been home to art exhibits as well like Chromointerference by Carlos Cruz Diez.

The Seven Wonders

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9. Oh! the Spectacular Artwork of Buffalo Bayou.

I hope you have enjoyed all of my pictures of the art in Buffalo Bayou. Here are some of my favorites that you need to look out for.

Gus S. Wortham Fountain. Also nicknamed Dandelion near Waugh Bridge. At night, this fountain lights up with alluring colors like pink, purple, and blue. It doesn't take much to see why it is called the Dandelion.

Seven Wonders. This exhibition by Mel Chin, used the art from grade school students to depict the seven pillars of Houston civilization. Agriculture. Energy. Manufacturing. Medicine. Philantropy. Technology. and Transportation.

Tolerance. This is a seven piece constellation at Montrose and Memorial. It stands for equality of all religions and nationalities of the seven continents.

The Big Bubble. This installation by Dean Ruck is a big bubble that occurs in Buffalo Bayou that is activated by a "secret button." I would say that you have to be in the know, but it has been turned off since Hurricane Harvey. Maybe one day.

10. It is resilient!

Houston was so proud at the unveiling of the park aafter its $58 million renovation. Then came Hurricane Harvey. We all saw the pictures online and on social media. They were horrible. Just like I would expect from Houstonians, we all came together and after 2300 volunteers donated 7000 man hours, 60 million pounds of sediment, 500 trail lights, 5 dump trucks full of trash and debris were removed or repaired. Over 400 native trees and 1100 flowers were planted to restore the park.

You can definitely see why we all love Buffalo Bayou Park. I can't help but think this every time I run, walk, host, or drive anywhere in or around our pride and joy!

If you want more information or have questions about Buffalo Bayou Park, email info@buffalobayou.org. BBP Instagram handle is @buffalobayou.

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