Health is a spectrum, and your health varies from day to day. One week you may be getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, and eating all your greens. The next week could be the total opposite – you sprain your ankle, you’re stressed at work, and the neighbor’s puppy keeps barking and waking you up.
These times of stress make it harder to stick to our healthy routines. It becomes even more challenging to stay motivated to meal prep, take some time to exercise and/or meditate, and get to bed early when you are going through a stressful time. We all experience our own individual stressors, and it has many faces. Let’s go over some of the most common stressors – we all have more in common than you think!
- Work – Work is stressful, whether it’s long hours, discontent, or a tight deadline. If you love your work, then stress may come from putting too much of yourself into it and not taking time to recharge. If you hate your work… then stress comes from boredom, dread, annoyance, and the feeling of being stuck.
- Working Out – Your body was built to move! And movement is part of a healthy lifestyle. However, it does place strain on the body and mind. The more intense the exercise, the more strain is placed on the body and the more time you will take to consciously recover.
- Relationships – Humans are meant to form relationships! It’s what we do. Sometimes though, the going gets rough. When friendships get rocky or romantic relationships end, this can place us under stress.
- Change – Some of us like change more than others. Regardless, adapting to new things can be stressful. The energy of transition can drain us more than we know, and you’re left sitting in the living room of your new apartment wondering why in the heck you feel so stressed even though most everything is actually working in your favor.
- Stress as a characteristic – Some people sweat the small stuff way more than others just as part of their nature. Based on individual traits and lifestyle habits, there are some people who experience more/less stress (or at least they view the same things as more/less stressful) than others. There are also people who cope with stress worse/better than others, and this usually depends on mindset and habits (sometimes the adrenal glands have something to do with this too).
Stress is a part of life. It’s even a good thing in moderate amounts since it plays a role in motivating us to get up off our butts and DO something! Living in a totally stress free world would create complacency. Imagine the feeling you have while on vacation – the blissful daze of wake-up-whenever, eat croissants for breakfast and hanging around the pool as long as you like. Now imagine trying to motivate yourself to build a business, write a blog, or give a speech while you’re in vacation mode! It’s just not gonna happen. Life stressors play a role in motivating us to make a change for the better, so let’s start (or continue) to have a better relationship with stress.
One of the basic things I teach as a health coach is to create healthy habits that stick around forever. Not every day will be your best and most motivated day, and it’s on those days that it’s so helpful to still have your healthy habits to fall back on. When you already have your habits in place, they just become what you do every day– so these habits are the key to staying healthy when you’re stressed! Hopefully you already have your tool chest of healthy habits to pull from. In case you are remodeling your habit inventory, I’ll go over the big ones here:
- Planning meals: You don’t have to meal prep. You don’t even have to cook every single meal for yourself (but I do recommend cooking at home most of the time). You do need to be in the habit of being prepared for when you are hungry and knowing where your meals are coming from. In times of stress your appetite can increase or decrease depending on your stress response. Knowing that this can happen will help you maintain a healthy diet during crazy times. Observe how your appetite feels when you’re stressed – do you feel like you want to snack until the end of eternity? Or do you get home and realize you haven’t eaten all day? If you are an endless snacker, being aware of this habit will help you realize the reason behind your eating, zap the chip habit, and stick to your healthy meals. If you are an all-day faster, then make sure you are preparing your go-to healthy meals that you can look forward to and have handy. If you are stressed because of a very full schedule, plan ahead and order a healthy meal prep service like Prep to Your Door or Snap Kitchen. When times get crazy, don’t let your diet follow suit – this will put your body under even more stress. Keep it together with nutritious foods that supports your body!
- Getting enough sleep: Don’t underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep. You have no idea how many people I have spoken with about feeling like a NEW PERSON after getting an extra hour of sleep than they are used to. This is the time your body needs to rebuild and reset, so make sure you’re setting yourself up for success with consistently getting enough sleep. Create a nightly routine that is comforting, relaxing, and doesn’t involve technology for at least 30 minutes before bed (unless you are using it for a meditation app, music, or the like). Having this routine will be a nice thing to turn to each night to help you wind down when your mind is still on level 10 thinking about the day behind or the upcoming day ahead. Some of my go to relaxers before bed are: reading a book, journaling, breathing exercises, and this yoga pose.
- Drinking enough water: Get your 8 cups (8 oz. each) a day! It’s simple. And it helps. EVERYTHING. You’re never too busy to drink water. Most people are carrying a reusable bottle with them these days, so make sure you’re refilling yours and staying hydrated.
- YOUR form of meditation: Traditional meditation is an amazing practice. However, we are not all masters at it, or maybe just aren’t masters yet. Luckily, some of the benefits of meditation can be felt from other practices that are already accessible to you. What is your form of meditation? What takes your mind far away and makes you feel like yourself? Maybe its biking, listening to music, or preparing your meals. I know that I benefit from moving meditation. Working out is my time to clear my head, focus, and build myself up. I even pair it with 10 minutes of traditional meditation for a double whammy of grounding and manifestation. Finding YOUR form of meditation is one more tool in your toolbox. Once you have it, make it a habit to practice every day, not just when you are feeling crappy and overwhelmed. When you are feeling crappy and overwhelmed, you can use your form of meditation as a way to re-center since it’s already something you have practice with.
Where do you stand with each of these habits? Assess how well you are doing with each of them, and lay out small steps to improve what needs improvement. Healthy habits are the framework for staying healthy for life – even when you are stressed!