Stress relief strategies

“When the Breath wanders, the mind is unsteady, but when the Breath is still, so is the mind still.”  – Hatha Yoga Pradipika

Strategies for Stress Relief

As the holidays are just around the corner, how about three new strategies to handle stress better? There’s no simpler way to help you reach a relaxed state than a quick intentional breathing exercise. I mentioned in a previous post how to practice box breathing, belly breathing, and the 4-7-8 breathing. Today, I am going to go over the one-minute breath, the 4-4-6-2 breathing, and body scan relaxation. Taking a few minutes each day to unwind can make a world of difference in how we can handle life’s daily stressors.

The One-Minute Breath

  • Inhale for 20 seconds
  • Hold for 20 seconds
  • Exhale for 20 seconds

I still find it difficult to breathe in for a full 20 seconds, so I just do 10 seconds for now, with a 10-second hold, and breathe out for 10 seconds. See what works best for you.

The 4-4-6-2 Breath

  • Inhale through the back of the throat for 4 seconds
  • Hold for 4 seconds
  • Exhale slowly through the back of the throat for 6 seconds
  • Hold empty breath for at least 2 seconds

Body Scan Relaxation

Body scan relaxation can be very helpful after a stressful event or simply as a daily practice to reduce any possible tension. It is about tensing one muscle group at a time, for 3-4 seconds, from head to toe. With each flex, breathe in through the nose for 3-4 seconds. When you release, breathe out slowly through the mouth for 5-6 seconds.

On a Final Note

You may also want to try Non-Sleep Deep Rest, another type of body scan relaxation/meditation. In just 10 minutes, a Non-Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR) protocol can help you feel better if you don’t have the time to take that most-needed nap, for instance. See which breathing exercise or body scan relaxation works best for you, or alternate like I do, depending on the day.

Until next time!


Asprey, Dave. “3 Deep Breathing Exercises to Calm down from Every Stressful Situation.” Dave Asprey, 20 Dec. 2017, Accessed 22 Oct. 2022.

—. “Step 3: 6 Ways to Hack Your Nervous System to Consciously Manage Stress.” Dave Asprey, 14 June 2012, Accessed 22 Oct. 2022.

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Outdoor exercise

Keep Exercising

The colder weather may be upon us, but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep exercising just like you did this summer. The gym is definitely a good option when it’s raining, but otherwise, outdoor workouts and trail time are still a great choice to stay fit this fall.

Trail Time

Hiking in the fall, with all the beautiful colors and lovely sounds nature has to offer, is a wonderful way to enhance your mental and cognitive health. Try power walking or jogging. Take a few breaks to do some yoga or Tai Chi. How about walking meditation?

Outdoor Workouts

Along with running and/or cycling, include some simple lunges, hill sprints, bench dips, or wall sits, for instance. Doing a circuit workout or weight training session can be a nice way to challenge yourself in the colder weather. Some traditional dynamic stretches before working out might include:

  • Wide arm and leg circles
  • Shoulder and neck shrugs
  • High steps
  • Air squats

Outdoor Workouts Benefits

Exercising in colder weather helps:

  • Burn extra calories
  • Boost endurance
  • Fight depression and seasonal affective disorder
  • Wind down and sleep better
  • Enhance heart and metabolic health

On a Final Note

Don’t forget to dress in layers to keep warm. A hat, gloves, scarf, and warm socks may be needed too. Enjoy your workout!

Until next time!


Team Equip. “4 Keys to Maintain Fall Fitness.” Equip Newsletter, 6 Oct. 2022. Accessed 6 Oct. 2022.

“What Are the Benefits of Working out in the Cold? (plus Safety Tips).” Dr. Axe, Accessed 9 Oct. 2022.

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Working Out as a Daily Habit

Even though a lot of us think about tackling a new exercise program when the new year starts, summer can also be the perfect time to build new simple exercise habits. The nicer weather can make it easier to start moving more throughout the day. Maybe take a few breaks from work, enjoying a stroll around the block. Maybe plan some new fun outdoor adventures on the weekend that you meant to do a long time ago. With its numerous health benefits, exercise is a powerful tool at your disposal, not to dismiss.

Exercise Health Benefits

  • Enhances your happiness levels
  • Helps lessen your risk of heart disease
  • Can help you sleep better
  • Gives you an energy boost
  • Increases strength and flexibility
  • Helps better memory
  • Can boost self-confidence and increase performance at work
  • Helps strengthen your immune system
  • Can help improve your life span

On a Final Note

Working out can be so beneficial to your health and wellness. Don’t forget that in order to build a new habit for good, you want to take steps that are easy to implement on a regular basis. And of course, consult your personal physician to make sure the exercise regimen you want to do is the right one for you. As Stanford professor Andrew Huberman recently stated in a Joe Rogan podcast, “Being physically active is superb at extending your life and improving your life.”

Until next time!


“#1842 – Andrew Huberman. The Joe Rogan Experience Podcast.”, 12 July 2022, Accessed 16 July 2022.

Dr. Axe. “11 Benefits of Exercise … Start Working out Today! – Dr. Axe.” Dr. Axe, 12 Sept. 2017, Accessed 16 July 2022.

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Brain Aging

When it comes to brain health, brain aging is of course what we want to slow down as much as possible. Brain aging entails progressively having less blood flow to the brain, with the nerve cells shrinking and a brain volume that becomes smaller. This impacts your memory and ability to focus. 

In a recent Lifespan podcast with Dr. David Sinclair and co-host Matthew LaPlante, it is mentioned that “the volume of the brain after the age of 40 reduces about 5% per decade.” The good news is that “the brain ages slower than the rest of the body” and there is a lot we can do to tackle this problem whether it’s consuming enough polyphenols, increasing BDNF in a variety of ways, selecting a few brain training exercises, and many other things.


Polyphenols are those brightly colored antioxidants found in foods like blueberries, raspberries, green tea, red cabbage, coffee, and cacao, to name a few. Polyphenols help shield your brain from stress and free radical damage while aiding with bettering learning and memory. When it comes to slowing down brain aging, along with several other strategies, unprocessed polyphenol-rich foods help maintain your BDNF levels high.


BDNF is a protein that enhances your existing brain cells and makes new ones. BDNF also aids with maintaining your brain resiliency. As the years go by, it’s common to lose BDNF, which may affect brain health, memory, and focus. The good news is that you can actually boost BDNF with a great number of simple daily habits: 

  • Everyday movement and exercise
  • A regular meditation practice
  • A simple yoga practice
  • Good quality sleep (especially deep sleep)
  • Intermittent fasting
  • Social connection
  • Adequate sunlight exposure

Brain Training Exercises

As mentioned in a previous post, choose fun, creative intellectual activities/hobbies to keep your mind sharp such as reading, writing, problem-solving, and/or musical training. I also like to play brain training games on BrainHQ and Lumosity. And the Duolingo app is a lot of fun to practice a language with! Nerve cells are like muscles — you can prime them so they can become stronger and perform better. Brain exercises can aid with staving off memory loss. 

Have you tried dual N-back training? It’s a form of progressive brain training that boosts your problem-solving abilities, memory, and imagination. Something to try for sure. As Brant Cortright, Ph. D. states, “Each brain requires special nourishment, and we must experiment with different activities to find out what works for us, what we enjoy doing, and what our optimal engagement is.” Cognitive decline can be slowed down in so many different ways.

Until next time!


“Brain Health: The Ultimate Guide to Keeping Your Brain Young and Strong.” Dave Asprey, 12 Nov. 2019, Accessed 29 Jan. 2022.

Lipman, Dr Frank. “How BDNF Keeps Your Brain Healthy and How to Boost Yours.” Frank Lipman MD, 17 Jan 2022, Accessed 26 Feb. 2022.

Sinclair, Lifespan with Dr David. “Lifespan with Dr. David Sinclair – the Science of Keeping the Brain Healthy | Episode 7.” Google Podcasts, 16 Feb. 2022, 27 Feb. 2022.

Sperlazza, Courtney. “8 Ways to Keep Your Brain Young as You Age.” Bulletproof, 2 June 2021, Accessed 26 Feb. 2022.

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Working on Your Flexibility 

In my previous post, I explained how being flexible was beneficial for numerous reasons. It helps prevent injuries and lessen pain while boosting performance (whether it is athletic performance or simple everyday activities that can become challenging as we get older). Working on your flexibility also helps with correcting your posture, balance, and mobility, all leading to better performance.

In this post, I am going to describe the three main flexibility techniques that lessen tension in muscles. If you are feeling any pain when stretching or if you are unsure about where to start, double-check with your personal physician.

Static Stretching

Static stretching is simply holding muscles in their maximal lengthened position for about 20 seconds or three deep breaths. You want to feel the stretch but no pain. An example would be a basic hamstring stretch.

Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretching is a way of stretching muscles with movements of the limbs and joints. An example would be performing walking lunges.

Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF)

PNF consists of contracting a given muscle for a few seconds in an already fully lengthened position. The aid of a training partner or therapist is generally needed for PNF. An example would be someone (lying on the back) raising a leg straight up to fully stretch the hamstrings (without any pain) and then contract them (by slightly lowering the leg) while the therapist resists the movement and assists the stretch. This contract-relax pattern helps prime the nervous system and allows muscles to contract at a longer range of motion.

On a Final Note

It is now usually recommended to do dynamic stretches as part of your warm-up routine and to save the static stretches for after the workout as the latter can temporarily weaken muscles. Foam rolling can be part of your recovery routine and also be used before workouts to enhance blood flow, loosen up muscles and joints, and up-regulate the nervous system.

Until next time!


Levy, Jillian. “The Surprising Benefits of Flexibility.” Dr. Axe, 27 Nov. 2021, Accessed 1 Jan. 2022.

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Stretches and Flexibility Exercises

Stretching (and foam rolling), along with other flexibility activities like yoga, Pilates, and tai chi, are more than simple low-impact exercises. They are powerful tools helping to prevent injuries and lessen pain. They also have a direct impact on our posture, balance, mobility, and performance (whether it is athletic performance or simple everyday activities that can become challenging as we get older).

The Advantages of Being Flexible

Being flexible means that we are able to lengthen one or more joints and move through a bigger range of motion without feeling any pain or experiencing limitations. Flexibility is beneficial for numerous reasons:

  • Flexibility can aid with preventing injuries caused by tightness: By lessening tension in muscles and making them more supple, flexibility lowers the risk of stressing neighboring joints. Being flexible minimizes imbalances and muscular compensations that may lead to strains, pulls, and tears.
  • Increased range of motion boosts performance: A better range of motion in areas like the hips and knees, for instance, enhances our workouts because it helps us sink deeper into the exercises and possibly train longer at higher intensities. As mentioned above, any straining or discomfort will most likely be minimized when flexibility is optimal.
  • Improved mobility helps a great deal in everyday activities: Bending down to tie a shoe or picking up something off the floor may not always be smooth and easy. As we get older, it becomes evident that staying flexible (and agile) helps lessen the risks for poor balance, falls, etc. This maintained mobility gives a better quality of life in the later years.
  • Flexibility aids with correcting posture: Stretches and other flexibility exercises can help better our overall posture and mobility. These can help lessen slouching and pain when people sit for too long, for instance. Stretching and/or foam rolling after exercising is also highly recommended for a more targeted recovery.

On a Final Note

Last weekend, I attended a Pilates class for the first time. I thought I would give it a try for the new year. So along with some yoga poses and tai chi exercises that I do regularly, I now can include some Pilates exercises too.

What do you feel like trying this new year? 

Happy 2022!!


Levy, Jillian. “The Surprising Benefits of Flexibility.” Dr. Axe, 27 Nov. 2021, Accessed 1 Jan. 2022.

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A Warm Spice Not to Skip

Not only do spices improve any dish with delightful aromas and colors, but they also contain a host of health benefits. Cinnamon, one of the oldest spices in the world, is one of them. Obtained from the bark of the cinnamon tree, it is full of nutrients like fiber, manganese, and calcium. It offers many health benefits with its high antioxidant levels. The two main varieties are Ceylon and cassia. With its sweet, warming taste, cinnamon is a wonderful spice to use during the holidays!

The Main Health Benefits of Cinnamon

  • Helps reduce inflammation: cinnamon is full of protective antioxidants, including polyphenols, phenolic acid, and flavonoids, that help lessen free radical damage and combat oxidative stress in the body. These antioxidants can also help reduce inflammation, which may aid in the prevention of chronic disease. Cinnamon is even considered a potential cancer-fighting food.
  • Aids with maintaining heart health: cinnamon can help lessen high cholesterol levels, high triglyceride levels, and high blood pressure. Furthermore, it can be a beneficial blood coagulant and also better circulation and tissue repair.
  • Helps balance blood sugar: cinnamon aids with decreasing blood sugar levels and helps better insulin sensitivity. It can also be a great sugar substitute to sweeten desserts without adding many calories.
  • Aids with conserving brain function: due to its numerous antioxidants, cinnamon may improve cognitive function while helping protect the brain against different neurological disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Can help fight infections: cinnamon has natural antimicrobial, antibiotic, antifungal, and antiviral properties. Its essential oils may help boost the immune system too.
  • Can aid with improving oral hygiene: cinnamon (and its essential oils) has powerful antibacterial properties and so it may help with bad breath, tooth decay, cavities, and mouth infections.

On a Final Note

If you are not adding cinnamon yet to your favorite dishes, experiment blending it into your coffee, tea, paleo-friendly baked goods, yogurt, smoothies, or any recipe of your liking. As with almost everything, consume cinnamon in moderation – high doses can potentially lead to unwanted symptoms. 

Enjoy the holidays and sprinkle some cinnamon here and there to your heart’s content!

Have a Merry Christmas!


“Cinnamon Health Benefits, Nutrition Facts and Side Effects – Dr. Axe.” Dr. Axe, Sept. 2018, Accessed 21 Dec. 2021.

“Health Benefits of Cinnamon.” Mark’s Daily Apple, 21 Sept. 2020, Accessed 21 Dec. 2021.

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Forward Head Posture

Leaning forward with our shoulders rounded: isn’t that what we all have the tendency to do when we look at a computer screen or our phone? This stooping over with your neck forward adds around 10 extra pounds of pressure on the cervical spine for every inch that the head is held in poor posture. 

If you do not do anything about it, this can potentially cause headaches and migraines, along with the obvious stress on the shoulders, chest, traps, and other adjoining muscle groups. Forward head posture can also impact the alignment of the entire spine and your breathing.

Some simple strategies can be implemented to maintain proper posture throughout the day when looking at a screen. Modifying your workspace, lessening screen time whenever possible, and doing some simple exercises for the neck and overall posture can tremendously help.

Modify Your Workspace

Make sure the chair you are using lets you sit back at least 20 or 30 degrees – you will then have to pack your neck back (which is the correct neutral position) instead of having your head drift forward.

When you look at the monitor, it should be positioned right in front of you so you don’t have to move your head up or down. Move your eyes (up and down the monitor) when needed, but do your best to keep your head in the neutral position mentioned above. The same goes for if you are at a standing workstation.

Limit Screen Time Whenever You Can

Limit the amount of time you spend on your phone if needed.

And, as mentioned in Why Everyday Movement is Non-Negotiable, when you have to sit for long periods of time, such as when working at a computer, every 30 minutes or so, you want to get up, stretch, and walk a little bit. If you are at a standing workstation, you still need to take regular breathers.

A few squats or other simple exercises can be nice little breaks from screen time, and an ideal way to increase blood flow. Go outside for a short walk and get some beneficial sunlight whenever possible!

Exercises for the Neck

Every day, I do a set of very simple neck exercises: the McKenzie Method neck retraction, neck extension, and neck rotation. Some helpful exercises are also demonstrated by chiropractic physician Matt Eichler on Instagram. And I find the brugger posture exercise very beneficial as well, quite similar to Mountain Pose (Tadasana) in yoga.

In Summary

Along with modifying your workspace and limiting screen time the best you can, working every day on your neck mobility and flexibility while strengthening it will benefit your overall posture to a great extent. See with your personal physician which exercises are best for you to start with. Just a small exercise or two several times throughout the day, whenever you have a couple of minutes, can be all it takes!

Until next time!


“Forward Head Posture.”, Accessed 25 Oct. 2021.

“How to Fix Tech Neck: Biohacking Neck Pain.” Dave Asprey, 16 July 2021, Accessed 24 Oct. 2021.

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Metabolic Dysfunction

We have approximately 30 trillion cells that need energy to function. We have to convert food to ATP – a type of energy that can be used in our cells. When that conversion is not going well, we don’t produce energy in our cells the way we are supposed to, thus leading to cellular dysfunction. Cellular dysfunction then leads to tissue dysfunction and organ dysfunction. Organ dysfunction can then show up as various symptoms: heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and dementia, cancer, chronic kidney/liver diseases, depression, and brain fog, to name a few. 

Metabolic dysfunction, the energy deficit or lack of good energy production in the cells, can be caused by insulin resistance. This sends us back to optimizing our lifestyle as much as possible and staying away from foods that raise our blood sugar too much. As mentioned in the previous post, even low-glycemic foods can still impact some people’s glucose responses to a greater degree, so it is up to you to progressively figure out which foods work best with your biology. 

What follows is a basic list of foods (eggs and dairy, meat and fish, baked-good ingredients, pasta, oils, fats, and sauces) that will help you better control your blood sugar levels.

Eggs and Dairy

When you want to buy dairy products, go for pasture-raised/grass-fed or organic dairy. If you consume dairy alternatives, skip the sweetened varieties and oat milk.

  • Eggs (go for pasture-raised or organic)
  • Kefir
  • Greek-style full-fat yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Butter
  • Ghee
  • Sour cream
  • Unsweetened nut and seed milks (excluding oat or rice milk) 
  • Unsweetened non-dairy yogurt (excluding oat)

Meat and Fish

When buying animal products, look for local, pastured, and 100% grass-fed. Next would be USDA-certified organic, such as with:

  •  Beef
  • Lamb
  • Game meats

For seafood, preferably buy wild-caught, small fish, such as:

  • Sardines
  • Anchovies
  • Salmon

Baked-Good Ingredients

When baking, swap in these alternative flours and sweeteners for refined wheat flours and traditional sugars. As a side note, dark chocolate should be 85-88% or higher, even as a snack.

  • Almond flour 
  • Coconut flour
  • Monk Fruit 
  • Stevia
  • Allulose 


White-flour pasta is an ultra-processed food so buy one of these alternatives instead:

  • Zucchini noodles
  • Konjac noodles
  • Hearts of palm pasta
  • Chickpea or lentil pasta (on occasion)

Oils, Fats, and Sauces

As mentioned in The 10 “Primal-Approved Fats and Oils,” you should bypass traditional vegetable/seed oils (canola, corn, soy, safflower, sunflower). These vegetable/seed oils are easily damaged by exposure to light, heat, oxygen, without even mentioning cooking itself. 

  • Tahini
  • Nut butters
  • Aioli
  • Guacamole
  • Pesto
  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil
  • Avocado oil
  • MCT oil

On a Final Note

Embracing a low-carb lifestyle is not as challenging as it may appear at first. So many alternative products are available now. Just a few swaps and you can still enjoy your favorite recipes!

Until next time!


The Levels Team. “110 Foods Unlikely to Spike Your Blood Sugar.” Levels, 25 May 2021, Accessed 28 Aug. 2021.

“The Secret to Longevity, Reversing Disease and Optimizing Health: Fixing Metabolism with Dr. Casey Means | the Doctor’s Farmacy with Mark Hyman, M.D.”, 11 Aug. 2021, Accessed 28 Aug. 2021.

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Metabolic Health

Our metabolism, which refers to how well we produce energy in the body (among other things), requires proper functioning and cellular biology in order to maintain health. Metabolic health can also be defined as the absence of any of the following markers: elevated fasting blood glucose, high blood pressure, excess waistline measurement, high triglycerides, and low HDL.

As we realize more and more that keeping our blood sugar levels stable can be key to maintaining metabolic health, it becomes important to familiarize ourselves with the foods that do not raise our blood sugar significantly. These low-glycemic foods can still impact some people’s glucose responses to a greater degree, so it is up to you to progressively figure out which foods work best with your biology. What follows is a basic list of foods (vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds), that will help you better control your blood sugar levels.


Root vegetables (even though healthy and better than grains for many) may raise blood sugar slightly more. See how your body responds when eating them.

  • Artichoke
  • Arugula
  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Broccolini
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Celery root
  • Chard
  • Collards
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Endive
  • Fennel
  • Green beans
  • Hearts of palm
  • Jicama
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce of all varieties
  • Mushrooms
  • Mustard greens
  • Okra
  • Onion
  • Peppers
  • Pumpkin
  • Radishes
  • Rapini (broccoli raab)
  • Rhubarb
  • Rutabaga
  • Snow peas and snap peas
  • Spinach
  • Sprouts
  • Summer squash
  • Tomatillos
  • Tomato
  • Turnip
  • Turnip greens
  • Zucchini


Berries are the ideal low-glycemic fruit. Portion-size matters of course. Also, eating fruits along with nut butters or seeds, for instance, will help lessen the blood-sugar spike from fruits.

  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Coconut
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Orange
  • Kiwi

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are awesome snacks providing fat, protein, and micronutrients, whether you are on the go or not.

  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Almonds
  • Brazil nuts
  • Cashews
  • Hazelnut
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Pine nuts
  • Pecans
  • Pistachios
  • Walnuts

In Summary

If we manage to stabilize our blood sugar levels and keep them in the optimum range throughout our lifetime, this may be the simplest way to maintain health and wellness, have longevity, and feel good all along!

Until next time!


The Levels Team. “110 Foods Unlikely to Spike Your Blood Sugar.” Levels, 25 May 2021, Accessed 28 Aug. 2021.

“The Secret to Longevity, Reversing Disease and Optimizing Health: Fixing Metabolism with Dr. Casey Means | the Doctor’s Farmacy with Mark Hyman, M.D.”, 11 Aug. 2021, Accessed 28 Aug. 2021.

You can also find me on Instagram.

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