Healthy Habits to Battle Stress
May 24, 2017
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that moving causes stress. Even though I am a pretty even keel kind of girl, I am feeling it – the chaos and disorder, the innumerable tasks, the physical act of packing. I did a quick Google search of stressful life events and one of the first articles I came across listed buying or selling a house as the number one most stressful things you can face in life. That’s a pretty crazy statement and a bit overblown in my opinion. However, other articles, such as an article by Health Status that states there are “certain incidents in our lives that turn our world upside down and cause us to feel stress,” lists moving as number 3, behind the death of a loved one and divorce.
Please hear me. I am NOT suggesting this process is as stress-inducing as death or divorce or major illness or losing a job (numbers 4 and 5 on the Health Status list). But it is tough. The article states “[moving] may be a happy occasion, but it is still a disruption of your routine. And any disruption of your routine causes stress. Moving disrupts the entire family. And it is a real pain in the neck.” Amen to that.
This time of year is also incredibly stressful for kids and parents – from final exams to preparing for end of year rituals and graduations, and even coming to terms with kids who are getting ready to leave home. There are so many details that have to be addressed and generally speaking our routines are off. Mine are WAY off.
All of this begs the question, how do we combat stress? How do we get through a particularly challenging season without getting run down or sick?
The answer for me involves a few important pieces. The first is doing my best to maintain my exercise routine – or at least get some sort of cardio activity in each day. This morning I did NOT want to exercise and could not even find the headspace to do my typical workout program. So I randomly picked a workout to stream through Beachbody on Demand (the “Challenge du Jour”) and did that. It got my heart rate up and caused me to sweat. And when it was over I felt better. As I have said to many people over the years who questioned my crazy early morning running that I did for years “getting started is hard, but you will NEVER regret a workout.”
I actually ended up getting a second workout in today too. Once a week my friend and I lead a fitness class at Shepherd’s Gate a local shelter for homeless women and children. I look forward to the 30 minutes with the women each week and I find that speaking into their lives, encouraging them and teaching them about health and fitness helps me to get out of my own head and rightly focuses my attention on others. So the endorphins from the bonus workout were great but the emotional boost the visit gave me was even more valuable. Step outside of your situation. A little perspective can go a long way.
Finally, the thing I have to be very intentional about in an anxious or stressful season is my nutrition. When we are really busy, there is a temptation to grab a quick bite to eat and drive on. It’s important to understand that the convenience of a quick meal will not outweigh the nourishment your body needs. In a stressful situation, more than ever, your body needs its daily nutrient requirements to prevent a compromised immune system and sickness. The few minutes saved are not worth missing out on an opportunity to replenish your body. I’m thankful to have discovered Shakeology a couple of years ago. It is a nutrient-dense meal replacement that contains all of my daily vitamins. It also helps provide healthy energy, reduces sugar cravings (because we know how stress exacerbates those) and it helps with my digestion and regularity. It’s low glycemic-index also helps holds me over for a while. Healthy snacks in my purse are also critical when I’m not certain when or where that next meal might be.
The recommendations above are simply from my own experience, although Psychology Today also suggest exercises and good nutrition can help. It also recommends the super useful 1) “recognize that this too shall pass,” 2) learn to self soothe (breathing, positive self-talk and muscle relaxation) and finally it suggests 3) to get more sleep. I hear this. I want to do this. But that innumerable list of tasks that need to be accomplished? They keep me up. I need to focus on going to bed earlier for sure. I need to get my head around the idea that an extra hour of sleep will be more psychologically beneficial to me than packing one more box. There’s always tomorrow…
Stress is caused by disruptions to our routines. So control the controllable and maintain the pieces of your routine that you can. Getting up 30 minutes earlier to exercise will pay dividends. And keeping healthy snacks on hand and planning meals will help your body be stronger, even when it may feel, in the words of my husband “like a fat person is sitting on my chest.”
If I can help you in any way, let me know. I’ll put you on the list of things to do. Just kidding. Truly, reach out. We aren’t meant to do this life alone and we need each other.
Getting my workout in early in the chaos that is a half-packed house.