Arianna Huffington: The Woman Behind The Sleep Revolution

Each month Total Woman Gym + Spa highlights the unique contributions of women in our community. By acknowledging and supporting our collective journeys - in the gym, at home, at work, and beyond – we thrive.

 

With an impressive resume as author, journalist, commentator and entrepreneur, we find this powerful woman one of the most influential female voices of our time. This Greece native was born Ariadnē-Anna Stasinopoúlou, but we know her as Arianna Huffington, the co-founder of The Huffington Post.

 

Although she stepped down from her role as Editor In Chief of The Huffington Post in late 2016, her work is far from over. Arianna Huffington is now devoted to her startup Thrive Global, which shares health and wellness information. The mission of Thrive Global is definitely one we stand behind: to end the stress and burnout epidemic by offering companies and individuals sustainable, science-based solutions to enhance both wellbeing and performance.

 

Her shift in platforms began years ago when sleep deprivation caused her to pass out at her desk and break her cheekbone. That jarring occurrence made her realize the immense stress she was under. Huffington admits the pressure she put on herself to do it all and “be the perfect mother” was damaging her health. She was suffering from burnout and realized that millions of women and men also experience this same exhaustion. “We are living under the collective delusion that [burnout] improves our performance, which it doesn’t,” she states.

 

Huffington is determined to help others prioritize their health by taking sleep seriously. “Sleep is free, sleep is available,” shares Huffington. There’s a resounding idea in our society that sleep is wasted time and Huffington wants to shatter that belief. In her book The Sleep Revolution, she uncovers the science of sleep and offers advice on how we can thrive and improve performance with just a few more hours of rest.

 

One simple tip we should all follow, and one that Huffington herself abides by, is to keep your phone away from the bed at night. Huffington advises to leave it in the other room and definitely never touch your phone when you’re in bed (no matter how tempted). The device disrupts your body’s sleep state.

 

Stress is something we all have and sleep is something we all need. As a woman who has seen the cruel harm stress can do, we should all take a bit of advice from Arianna Huffington – sleep, sleep, sleep. 

The Stress-Relieving Benefits of Essential Oils

We can’t always control the stressors in our lives, but we can definitely control how we handle them.

You’re probably already privy to the stress-busting benefits of a healthy diet, plenty of sleep and, of course, exercise. But we have another tool we want you to add to your stress-relieving arsenal: essential oil.

What are essential oils?

In a nutshell, essential oils are concentrated liquids containing a plant’s aromatic chemical compounds. These compounds are extracted by distilling the plant and combining it with carrier oil for preservation. In other words, it’s a mixture of what makes a plant smell good and oil.

How can essential oils help you?

Using essential oils to promote wellness — AKA aromatherapy — is a longstanding practice thought to combat a variety of mental and physical ailments.

Essential oils are believed to stimulate your limbic system, which is the part of your brain that regulates emotions, behaviors, and long-term memory. It also plays a role in your breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. Many find that using essential oils trigger good memories, calm emotions, and lower heart rate and blood pressure, which lead to an overall reduction in stress and anxiety.

How do you use them?

Most people inhale essential oils or apply them topically. Some essential oils may be ingested. Before ingesting an essential oil be sure to check the label as not all are intended for internal use.

Topical application

When oils are applied topically, the active chemical compounds are absorbed into the skin the same way topical pharmaceutical medications and nicotine patches are. Massaging or heating the area before application increases circulation, and therefore might increase the rate of oil absorption.

Inhalation

Inhalation of essential oils is exactly as it sounds — it’s simply inhaling the oils through your nose or mouth. The odor molecules travel through these pathways to the limbic system, which, as mentioned, is responsible for regulating stress and emotions. You can inhale them straight from the bottle, add a few drops to a cotton pad and carry it with you, or invest in an essential oil diffuser that’ll waft them throughout your living space.

What are the best essential oils to use for reducing stress?

There are a number of essential oils that can be used for stress-busting, but there are a few that stand out from the pack.

Frankincense

This essential oil is commonly used in meditation for the feeling of peace and relaxation it brings. It’s shown to relieve anxiety, abate anger, and reduce the user’s overall stress level. Additionally, some find that it relieves pain and reduces inflammation.

Sandalwood

Sandalwood has an amazing scent, which is why it’s used in everything from cosmetics to perfume. But it does more than simply smell good; it’s also found to be effective for balancing emotions and inducing a sense of calm. Even better, it might help improve your memory and concentration.

Lavender

Lavender is among the most popular of relaxing oils, and is commonly found in massage parlors and meditation centers. Its soothing scent is thought to promote relaxation, boost inner-peace, alleviate irritability, and help with insomnia – which makes it a perfect addition to the bedroom.

In this big crazy world we live in, we can never have too many tools to combat stress, and essential oils are most definitely a worthy addition to your stress-relieving toolbox.

What's the right group fitness class for me?

For a lot of us, it is difficult to find the motivation to exercise. The best way to combat these feelings of drudgery is to find a fitness routine that you enjoy doing and to be surrounded by others who fuel your motivation. The group fitness classes available at Total Woman Gym + Spa will not only help you reach your fitness goals, it will provide you with a community of support and inspiration - while having fun in the process. But the question remains: what's the right group fitness class for you? Take the quiz below to find out!

Stressed? Yoga Is The Answer

A healthy stressor can be the kick in the pants you need to get things done, like looking for that new job or saving money to pay off your car. However, long-term stress can lead to anxiety, weight gain, decreased immune system, and emotional distress. Yoga has been proven to counteract these effects. Before stress gets the best of you, step onto your yoga mat.

There’s a reason why some of the most notable business people and celebrities (Arianna Huffington, Madonna, and Kate Hudson to name a few) incorporate yoga and meditation techniques into their high-pressure lives. It’s not that yoga erases all stress; rather it is the tool with which to manage it.

Yoga is an ancient practice that has an immediate need in our modern world. Dozens of devices and a million apps have been created to make our lives easier, but it seems that our stress is at an all time high. Perhaps we’re doing too much at all times. Slowing down, and tuning into the feelings and sensations in your body, are essential, and yoga helps you do it. Practice these stress-relieving yoga and meditation techniques at any time to calm your mind.

Breathe

Yoga enforces the use of breath for everything you do from movement to stillness. One of the most common breathing techniques used in yoga class is Ujayi breathing. With lips sealed, you breathe in and out through your nose with a goal of matching the length of your exhales to the length of your inhales. This technique calms the central nervous system and lowers the heart rate.

 

Get Present

Stress has a way of magnifying a situation or circumstance. In a state of stress, our thoughts begin to jump to the past or future. I should have done this. Why didn’t I do that? How will I ever get this done? What if…? These thoughts only cause more stress and anxiety – oh the vicious cycle! You only have control over what is happening right now so staying present actually soothes your stressed state of mind. Practicing meditation daily helps with focus, awareness and staying present. There are several ways to meditate, and while there is no right or wrong in meditation it takes practice – so keep at it!. A couple techniques you can do right now include closing your eyes and listening to your breath, or repeating a mantra. There are a ton of great meditation apps that will help you too.

 

Ground Yourself

The sense of being “grounded” (think anchored or rooted to something strong) helps alleviate feelings of anxiety or panic (which have a frenetic quality). Mountain pose, or Tadasana, is a simple yoga posture that reminds us to stay strong and still, not hasty and reactive. In this pose you stand on both feet with your hands by your sides. Gently tuck your pelvis under, lengthen the top of your head toward the sky, and roll your shoulders down and back. Now stay here and breathe. It seems pretty basic, but stillness isn’t always easy – especially in a state of stress. Mountain pose is always available to you. At any moment when you feel stressed, bring your feet flat on the floor and visualize yourself in Tadasana pose (or stand up and do the full pose). Plant your feet and be still.

 

Yoga is much more than a good stretch. With a consistent practice you will build strength, increase your flexibility, improve your health, and, most importantly, find calm in the midst of a stress storm. 

Meet the queen of food policy, nutrition, and education: Marion Nestle

Each month Total Woman Gym + Spa highlights the unique contributions of women in our community. By acknowledging and supporting our collective journeys - in the gym, at home, at work, and beyond – we thrive.

For over 40 years, Marion Nestle has dedicated her life to helping folks take control of their health through food choice and safety education, and by working to hold food corporations accountable for misleading and/or damaging marketing approaches that target people of lower socioeconomic statuses.

Her resume, which is still ongoing, is impressive to be sure. Currently, she’s a Paulette Goddard Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University — a program she also chaired for fifteen years. Additionally, she’s an NYU sociology professor and visiting professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell University.

But her credits don’t stop there. Nestle also holds honorary degrees from Transylvania University and from the City University of New York’s Macaulay Honors College in addition to having earned a Ph.D. in molecular biology and M.P.H. in public health nutrition from the University of California, Berkeley. We’ve searched, and few are more qualified to drop serious nutrition knowledge on the world than she is. Fortunately for all of us, that’s exactly what she’s doing.

A primary focus of Nestle’s work is how food politics influences how and what we eat. Unfortunately politics and our best interest do not go hand in hand.. To put it in numbers, the food industry, largely comprised of companies promoting processed foods, spends $10 billion a year in direct media advertising, while the campaign for fruits and vegetables spends about $2 million.

Nestle argues that processed foods, rather than healthier whole food alternatives, are being marketed to us because, “That’s where the profit is. Potatoes are cheap. Potato chips aren’t. And those really delicious olive oil rosemary ones that I happen to be particularly fond of are shockingly expensive, $3 for five ounces. The objective is to process foods as much as possible. But many of these highly processed foods are junk food — relatively high in calories and low in nutrients."

Food marketing is just the tip of Nestle’s frustration. The general lack of consumer education – and confusion – around dietary protocols, ingredients and portion control are astounding. While it’s clear to Nestle that portion size is positively correlated to obesity, she’s found that many of us have difficulty internalizing that notion. “You don’t need another explanation for obesity,” she said. “We have tons of evidence that people don’t realize that larger portions have more calories and are clueless about how much they’re eating.”

Much of that lack of consumer understanding can be attributed the contradictory messages we receive from news media regarding what, how and when we should be eating. One report will say that including a given ingredient in our diet will miraculously cure us of all that ails us, while the next might claim the very same ingredient is cancer-causing. Nestle argues that looking too closely at any one ingredient makes the whole healthy eating endeavor needlessly complicated. “The bottom line is so simple” she said, “Eat plenty of vegetables, don’t eat too much junk food and try not to gain too much weight.”

Marion Nestle’s lifetime body of work is motivated by these frustrations, and it has been integral in informing policy and compelling change around the food industry as a whole. She’s brought to light a myriad of ways food corporations take advantage of consumers for financial gain, and continues to propose new ways for consumers – people like us – to gain better insight into how we need to fuel our bodies for optimal health and wellness. 

While Nestle’s impressive credentials and extensive research have made for a longstanding and complex career, her prescription for healthy eating is simple: “Eat more vegetables, eat smaller portions and don’t drink sugar-sweetened beverages." We love the simplicity of this time-tested message, and hope you do as well.