Welcome 2021 and These Awesome Activities!

2021 healthy habits

Whew, 2020 delivered us quite the year! This past year was absolutely incredible and still a bit unbelievable. On many days I tried to live in the moment while simultaneously feeling that the moment was history in the making. Sometimes, it felt exhilarating and other times exhausting.

I’d like to share a few activities that I’m intentionally hoping to engage in more often during 2021. This list comes from Brene Brown’s Unlocking Us podcast with guests Emily and Amelia Nagoski (twins!). Emily and Amelia recently published a book called Burnout; The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle. The premise is that emotions have a beginning, middle, and end like a tunnel. When I was a kid one of the treats of a trip between my dad’s house in Napa and a visit to San Francisco involved driving through the Rainbow Tunnel, which is pictured above and now named the Robin Williams Tunnel. It has a beginning, middle, and end!

Getting stuck in the tunnel causes exhaustion and burnout because we don’t complete the stress cycle. Even if we remove the stressor, we haven’t necessarily worked through the stress emotion (completed the cycle). In other words, we’re stuck in the dark tunnel.

The good news is that there are certain activities that help us move through the stress cycle.  So here goes my intention of inviting more of the following awesome activities into my life during 2021! These are in order of efficiency in working through the tunnel and completing the cycle:

  1. Physical activity – literally any movement. Walking, dancing, shaking, yoga, hiking, Pilates, cross country skiing. I love that there are so many options to choose and that I’ve written about this before in Exercise and Mental Health.
  2. Breath – especially focusing on the exhale to calm the nervous system. This is one of the reasons that I love meditation and chair savasana.
  3. Laughter – real laughter that may be “slightly embarrassing, mouth hanging open, belly jiggling, uncontrolled, ridiculous laughter that really takes over your body.”[1]
  4. Twenty second hugs – how beautiful! And I personally believe puppy hugs are included. “Research suggests a 20-second hug can change your hormones, lower your blood pressure and heart rate and improve mood.”[1]
  5. Crying – allowing the emotion to ride all the way to the end. What great affirmation for so many of us that randomly found ourselves in tears this past year. Though asking for more tears in 2021 feels weird, I’m totally on board.
  6. Creative expression – taking something difficult and putting it outside of yourself. We’re all artists!

Here’s to wishing all of us a calmer 2021!

[1] Brown, B. (Host). (2020, October 14). Brené with Emily and Amelia Nagoski on Burnout and How to Complete the Stress Cycle. [Audio podcast episode]. In Unlocking Us with Brené Brown. Cadence13. https://brenebrown.com/podcast/brene-with-emily-and-amelia-nagoski-on-burnout-and-how-to-complete-the-stress-cycle/