H-Town Run Tourist's Guide to Mental Health

9 hacks for reducing stress

9 hacks for reducing stress

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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

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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The Texans finally have a team we're excited to root for again! Composite Getty Image.

It’s been a few days, but fans are still playing the big, could’ve-been moments of the Houston Texans’ big AFC Divisional showdown last Saturday against the Baltimore Ravens.

To borrow from legendary football coach T.S. Eliot, that’s how the Houston Texans season ended Saturday in Baltimore: not with a bang, but a whimper.

The top-seed Ravens ended the Texans’ miraculously unexpected charge into the playoffs with a smothering, shackling defense, 34-10, in the Divisional round. Although the score was tied 10-10 at the half, the Ravens pounded the Texans into submission with 24 unanswered points in the second half.

The Texans offense, which had excited fans all season with swashbuckling play calling and electrifying rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud, inexplicably played tighter than a gas station slot machine along I-10 in Louisiana.

Texans fans on social media groaned when the Texans started a drive or needed a couple yards on third down by running the ball up the middle for no gain. I’m thinking the team needs a “cussin’ jar” on the sidelines next season. Each time the Texans run up the middle, offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik has to throw a $100 bill in the jar.

Uh, wasn’t it a wide-open offense that brung the Texans to the post-season, including a wild card win at home? What happened? Did the coaching staff forget to take its Prevagen?

What a year

Still, what an amazing season it was for the Houston Texans. Just one year ago, thanks to one of the stupidest coaching decisions in league history by former head coach Lovie Smith, the Texans pulled victory from the jaws of a much-needed defeat and blew the No. 1 pick in the draft. The result was a 3-win season and another last-place finish in the AFC South.

While the Carolina Panthers got their man at No. 1, Bryce Young from Alabama, the Texans had to “settle” for Stroud, who turned in one of the most sensational rookie seasons — ever. Meanwhile, Young is still wandering the Panthers sidelines with his helmet on sideways after getting his brains rattled.

From blown up to blowing up

The Texans blew up the franchise. They started in 2022 by punting vice president Jack Easterby. For a refresher, Easterby was compared to a “pox” and a “cancer” by fans — even an “STD that lingered.” (Ew.)

As I mentioned back then, a Sports Illustrated exposé on Easterby revealed that he brought a “culture of mistrust and constant chaos among staff and players,” arranged for illegal team practices and flouted safety rules during COVID, and reportedly hired private eyes to follow players during their off-hours.

They regrouped and hired new coach DeMeco Ryans — a fan favorite when he played here — who actually faced the field during games this season. They even improved the food at concession stands at NRG Stadium. Speaking of food, name a football stadium anywhere else in America where you can get a smash-hit Trill Burger.

Nowhere, that's where.

Everything that could go right … went right. The team finished with 10 regular season wins plus the wild card victory. Nobody saw any of this coming.

Where do the Texans go from here? Head coach Ryans will get lots of love for NFL Coach of the Year. If Stroud doesn’t win Offensive Rookie of the Year — unanimously — there oughta be an investigation.

Don’t take my word for it. Stroud and Will Anderson Jr., whom the Texans drafted at No. 3 right after they drafted Stroud, were just named Offensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Rookie of the Year — respectively — by the Pro Football Writers of America. In the pro football world, that’s a good precursor to the bigger, official NFL award given announced later.

Offensive coordinator Slowik will interview for head coaching positions because it’s well know that the NFL struggles to find white coaches for these jobs. The Texans will be the favorites to win the AFC South next season.

Rekindling the love

More important, the Texans won back the city and its fans. Last year, and a few more years before that, the only business making money was the company that made the tarp to hide empty seats in the upper deck. The sidewalk game day traders couldn’t give away Texans tickets. Literally had no takers.

Now? And for the future? Texans football is back. It’s fun again. We can root for these guys.

Next season can’t get here soon enough.

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