On a scale from 1-10, how’s your stress level? 1 is little to no stress and 10 is max stress, the most stressed out you’ve ever felt, life or death stress.
For me, this past year, probably since early Feb 2019, has been a steady 5 or 6. It’s been a rough year. Covid combined with a move and a new job (along with daily anxiety about my kids on both coasts) and I’d say I’m a 7 or 8 on most days. It’s been rough.
And to be honest, for the first few weeks I just kinda sat with it. I ate cupcakes, drank wine, cried, and didn’t handle my shit very well. To be fair, I also ate 800 grams of fruits and veggies most days, got 8 hours of sleep, and exercised 3 to 4 days a week, so it wasn’t all tears and cupcakes.
But, I wasn’t doing what I needed to do to reduce stress, manage inflammation in my body, and at least work toward maintaining my current level of health.
Something flipped for me a few days ago.
Maybe it was the massive breakdown on my living room floor, who knows. I woke with a decision to really focus on reducing my stress and taking simple steps that I KNOW I CAN DO, to maintain and improve health.
First, I want to point out that I am taking steps that are manageable. This is NOT THE TIME to tackle hard things and set big goals.
Secondly, I want to explain why managing stress is my primary focus and why I’m providing this abundant list of resources to HELP YOU MANAGE STRESS.
- Stress impacts your food choices. When you’re stressed your body/brain reaches for sugar.
- Stress impacts sleep.
- Your food choices and your sleep impact your mental/emotional disposition.
- You’re less stressed, more calm, and even focused when you are eating well and sleeping well.
- Your immune system is negatively impacted by stress (we all need our immune systems to be in the best fighting shape of our lives).
- Your immune system is also negatively impacted by high sugar and foods containing PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids like canola oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, peanut oil, and corn oil.)
- And of course you’ll have a stronger immune system if you’re getting good sleep.
The bottom line is that your stress level affects all other aspects of your health and vice versa. It’s a wonderful idea right now to focus on simple ways to reduce stress so that you can support healthy decisions, a calmer mindset, and better sleep all geared toward not just feeling better but also helping your immune system get as strong as it can be.
What I’m Doing Right Now:
I’m tackling stress from many directions right now:
Meditation – I use HeadSpace – https://www.headspace.com/. They have a 10 day free trial. I meditate anywhere from 5-15 minutes a day.
Journaling – I used to embrace the daily habit of Morning Pages from Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way. You can also find an online version here – https://juliacameronlive.com/basic-tools/morning-pages/.
Here are some useful articles/resources for journaling. For me, I’ve found that it’s an effective way to get the thoughts and emotions out of my head so I can try to focus on the day in front of me.
Keep in mind that this isn’t about productivity or organization, this kind of journaling is about improving your sense of calm and reducing stress.
Sugar Reduction – Let’s be blunt and state that people with diabetes and prediabetes are at a huge risk with Covid-19, not just getting it but also being hospitalized or dying from Covid. I’ve been eating probably 2-3 cupcakes per week plus biscotti and the occasional scoop of ice cream.
Now… all of my choices are gluten free and dairy free, but they’re PACKED with sugar. Bad for my future health and pretty shitty for my stress levels and immune system. I have learned, and it’s been backed by study after study, that sugar affects my mental health. I am calmer and more content when I don’t eat much/any sugar.
That being said, I also know that right now isn’t the time to go cold turkey with anything and baby steps often work for me so the plan I’m working through is to eliminate all added sugars over two days and then gradually reduce natural sugars like maple syrup etc..over the following three days. I’m working toward 0 sugar, 0 PUFAs, and 100% paleo.
Some resources to consider:
- 21 Day Sugar Detox – Diane Sanfilipop
- 800 Gram Challenge – EC Synkowski
- Primal Blueprint – Mark Sisson
- Whole30 – Melissa Hartwig Urban
Tracking, Not Restriction – I am also tracking my intake. I need some awareness about what I’m eating so I’m tracking it for a few days. From there, once I have a foundation and a framework to work with, I will make some decisions about how to improve. I suspect I am going to lean back toward the macros that generally work best for me which is low carb < 100 grams.
I use Cronometer. I can use it for health coaching clients, they have a pro version, and I like the ability to customize macros to fit my own needs. It also has a barcode scanner and is very simple to use.
And…exercise…-Exercise has been difficult for me. I am an extrovert so this whole exercise by yourself thing sucks. I also prefer to exercise early in the morning, like 7:30-ish but I live on the top floor of an apartment building and I am reluctant to be that bitch jumping up and down on someone’s head.
It’s been a real challenge to work out later in the day when it feels okay to exercise on someone’s head. If I get 4 workouts in a week, I’m pretty happy, but I’m physcially not happy unless I’m working out 5 or 6 days so in addition to the amazing program my CrossFit gym has put together for members, I am trying yoga next week.
So the goal is 4 CrossFit workouts and 2-3 yoga workouts. I have never really liked Yoga so wish me luck!
RomWod is where I’ll be heading for my yoga instruction.
Gratitious Pampering – I am upped my self care game this pandemic. I have embraced the joy of those sheet masks. I loaded up on them at Ulta before they closed their doors and I nabbed a few at the store the other day. I draw a nice bath every night, even if I get home late from work, and once a week I do a facial mask. Once a week I do a hair mask too.
Reading and Learning – I also believe that being engaged with the world and keeping your mind active is a good way to help reduce stress. I’m trying to replace the endless scrolling on Instagram with listening to podcasts and reading books from authors who have a lot to teach me. I just bought, The Fatburn Fix by Dr Cate Shanahan. Her book, Deep Nutrition, is absolutely astounding and referenced often in my home.
Finally, I am planning fun things to do – My husband and I have created a new tradition of takeout and a movie. Not very original but it’s helping us have something to plan and look forward to. We order from a nice restaurant and rent a new-ish movie to watch together. Last week we watched Parasite and we’re going to see The Invisible Man this weekend. Excited!
A Way to Go Forward
Sit down and answer the first question that I asked, “On a scale from 1-10, how’s your stress level?” Be honest. Write it down if it helps. Then think about one simple thing that you can do today, and most days going forward, that would help you reduce your stress. Start doing that thing, don’t overthink it. Just do. Add another small step to relieve your stress the next day, and the next, and the next. Create a manageable plan that you can add to your daily routine to help you reduce your stress and improve your health.
Next time, I’m going to talk a bit about how to create that daily “flexible” plan that will help you get and stay motivated and on the path to better health.