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Your 9-Point Health Bailout Package

Stressed by the Economy? Don't Let It Wreck Your Health

3. Working out has gone by the wayside. continued...

"Stress makes people feel very negative, and negative emotions such as anxiety or anger kind of zap the energy out of people ... and when you feel fatigued or lethargic, of course, you don't feel motivated to move and exercise," says Sabrena Merrill, MS, a spokeswoman for the American Council on Exercise and a personal trainer with her own company, Fitness Logic, in Lawrence, Kan.

But "exercise can actually be a technique for stress relief," says Merrill. Her advice:

  • Shake up your routine. Skip the grueling workout and do something "a little more fun," says Merrill, who suggests walking, raking leaves, gardening, biking, or whatever physical activity you enjoy.
  • Do it first thing in the morning. "Before you get up and go out into the world, if you can take some time for yourself to exercise, you're more likely to get it done," says Merrill. "As the day wears on and we think about our financial situation and we hear the news and everything's so negative, it really does zap your energy."
  • Low cost, no problem. You don't need a gym. "There are many great options for home exercise in the form of either books or DVDs," sys Merrill. "Many people struggle with [what] I like to call paralysis by analysis. You know you want to do something but you don't really know exactly what so you just never do it. My recommendation is that you just move your body."

"Hang in there," says Merrill. "I know everyone's feeling it, myself included, and I really do practice what I preach. I was up at 5:30 this morning just to get it out of the way so I could feel better about my day."

"Usually, if a person can recognize the positive aspects -- I'm talking psychological positive aspects, not necessarily the look-better-naked ones -- then they're more likely to get hooked. Then it becomes a situation where they couldn't imagine not exercising, because then they would feel horrible if they didn't exercise," says Merrill.

4. Your sleep is suffering.

Stress is a well-known sleep wrecker, and Michael Breus, PhD, ABSM, WebMD's sleep expert, is already hearing from patients who link their sleep problems to financial stress. That doesn't just include his patients.

"Some friends have made some recent comments to me that they have never had sleep problems before and now they are," Breus says in an email.

Breus offers these tips for getting your sleep back on track:

  • Keep a worry journal. "Take a blank piece of paper and write your concerns on one side and then one solution on the other," says Breus.
  • Relax before bedtime. Breus suggests a "hot bath, relaxing music, yoga, sex, exercise, whatever works for you."
  • If you wake up in the middle of the night, consider counting backwards from 300 by threes. "I know it sounds a bit weird, but you cannot think of anything else and it is so boring you should fall back asleep. If you get to zero, get up and go into another room until you're tired," says Breus.


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