So you’ve lost your job. As tempting as it might be to descend into an extended pity party, health experts suggest you turn the bad news on its heel instead.
As they say in optimist circles: When life lands you in the unemployment line, get busy working.
Better health can decrease blood pressure, keep blood sugar levels at proper numbers and reduce stress, said Barbara Kolenda, physical fitness instructor at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park. Betsy Sejud, of Orland Park, works out at Cardinal Fitness in Orland Park. “Exercise makes you feel better,” manager Scott Johnson said. “It’s a good way to get your mind off things and to feel like you’re accomplishing something.”
“Look at this as an opportunity, not a loss,” suggested Liz Lonergan, co-owner of The Center For Body and Soul in Palos Heights. “A lot of people losing their jobs hated those jobs anyway.”
The recession may be taking a toll on the nation’s workforce, but many newly displaced workers are taking advantage of the downtime to reverse the damage that a sedentary, vending-machine-packed lifestyle inflicted on their bodies.
They may have lost their jobs, but they’re determined to reclaim their health. And kudos to them.
Scott Johnson is 25. Many of his contemporaries still can’t find jobs, even though they graduated college a couple of years ago.
So they’ve developed a different kind of work routine: They head to the health club each day and vent their stress.
“Exercise makes you feel better,” said Johnson, manager of Cardinal Fitness in Orland Park. “It’s a good way to get your mind off things and to feel like you’re accomplishing something.”
Even an hour or two walking the treadmill or lifting free weights can make a huge difference in your psyche, he said.
“Anything positive you can put into your life is good,” Johnson said.
Exercise, said Lela Iliopoulos, will help you sleep better and thus control stress levels.
Iliopoulos, a dietitian supervisor for outpatient nutrition at Palos Community Hospital, said just as important is maintaining a good diet.
Stress alone threatens your immune system. Skipping meals or loading up on simple sugars can aggravate it further by throwing hormones out of balance, she said.
In addition, Iliopoulos said, practice whatever stress reduction technique works for you, whether that’s walking the dog, gardening or meditating.
Janel Hayden, a registered dietitian at Advocate Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, said she’s seeing an increase in interest in good health across the board.
“Even people who are working are saying, ‘My health is important,'” she said.
The economic downturn, she said, is helping people reprioritize. Maybe life in the fastlane wasn’t all that great.
A recent survey by Rodale Inc., which publishes Men’s Health and Runner’s World magazines, showed that 84 percent of those polled believe there is no better time than now to invest in maintaining good health.
For the newly unemployed, more free time can mean more time to shop for healthier and more economical meals. It can translate into more time in the kitchen spent preparing those meals. And it can result in more family time, Hayden said.
Eating better, coupled with increased exercise, can quickly lead to weight loss. A 7 to 10 percent weight loss can have a huge improvement on back, hip or knee pain.
“Plus, when people lose a little weight, they experience a mood lift, their stamina increases, it affects your outlook on life,” she said.
Better health can decrease blood pressure, keep blood sugar levels at proper numbers and reduce stress, said Barbara Kolenda, physical fitness instructor at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park.
“It will also help you sleep better,” she said. “Sleep loss is something a lot of unemployed people suffer from.”
Take advantage of the weekdays to get outside and walk. Take a class because, she said, group settings help inspire you. And be consistent because everyone needs a routine.
Overall, she said, exercise will help you gain a sense of control over your world. And it will help you develop a positive mental attitude.
“And when you go for that next job interview, you want to go feeling good about yourself,” she said.
Kolenda is also an advocate of expressing gratitude.
“No matter how bad it gets, there is always someone worse off,” she said.
“It’s real easy to get stuck in a ‘poor me’ attitude,” she said. “The more positive you can be, the better off you and your family will be.”
To attract the positive, Lonergan advised, begin by turning off the TV. Consider yoga, pilates, tai chi and even belly dancing.
“Once you’re feeling good physically, the spiritual and emotional parts will follow,” Lonergan said.
“Your outlook on life will improve and you’ll eat better and take better care of yourself.”
Tips for handling the stress of unemployment:
Be mindful of portion sizes.
Increase the amount of fiber with whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
Aim for1/2 pound to 11/2 pounds of weight loss per week, if you’re overweight.
Shop for better sales. Consider stores and farmers markets that you might not have had time for in the past.
Start easy and slowly.
Walking requires no special equipment other than a good pair of shoes.
Get outside more.
Look at the weekends as an opportunity to do more recreational things, especially now that the weather is better.
Make a schedule and strive for consistency.
Consider a workout class. Group exercisers tend to have more success.
Consider meditation. When you feel better spiritually, you’ll have a better outlook.
Yoga, pilates, belly dancing and tai chi can help relieve stress.
Look at what’s really important: spending time together, taking good care of yourself, having an inner peace.
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Have a healthy and fit day!