4 Ways to Stay Healthy During Times of Stress

We all have overwhelming weeks, don't we?  Those weeks where nothing seems to be going your way, and the last thing you need to worry about is fitting in time to prep meals and work out.   This past week was like that for me.  I haven't had nearly the time I'd like to devote to my workouts and meal prep (not to mention my certification studies!).   It was trying to say the least.

That said, there are so many ways to stay calm during stressful times, and still maintain a healthy diet and exercise plan, even if it's not on par with your usual routine.  Every little bit counts - every healthy choice you make is one step toward your ultimate goal.  One of my favorite quotes during these times is, "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."  

I think it's a perfect reminder to be gentle with ourselves during times of chaos and try to do what we can to minimize burdens, but realize that sometimes, stressful situations arise that are beyond our control.

Here are a few strategies I used this week to help maintain my cool:

  1. Getting enough sleep.  We all know by now that we're supposed to get about 8 hours of sleep per night.  And we also know that if we don't, our bodies and minds pay a price.  For me, this week was full of some pretty big life decisions (the main one being buying a new car) so I needed to be of a clear, focused mind in order to make such a huge purchase.  Among other things, getting enough sleep was a priority.
  2. Maintaining a healthy diet.  Eating clean and choosing to nourish your body with the nutrients it needs during stressful times can have huge impacts on how you feel and can help in keeping your mind sharp in order to tackle what's on your plate (pun intended :) ).  I didn't have a lot of time to prepare meals this week, so I had to buy lunch and dinner often.  This usually meant making a trip to the store for prepared meals or going to the cafeteria next to where I work and trying to choose the healthiest options they had to offer.  Usually this was a salad with some kind of protein (chicken, tuna, turkey) - light on the dressing! - a cup of low-sodium soup full of veggies, and a piece of fruit.  I've found when I'm stressed, like most of us, I'm more tempted to consider getting a bag of chips or a cookie because they're convenient, but I remember that the more crap I eat, the worse I feel.  If you can make the healthy decision and choose better, you can take control over how your body feels and you'll be much more likely to make better, healthier decisions in other areas of your life.
  3. Fit in your "workouts" during your everyday activities.  That may sound weird, so let me explain.  Sure, I didn't have time to get in my usual workouts this week, but I tried to compensate by doing a few things throughout my day that would add some kind of physical activity and help me feel energized.  For example, walking to the cafeteria to get lunch.  There were some gorgeous days this past week, so getting outside for a brisk walk helped me feel like I was still staying active even though I wasn't getting to the gym.   If I went to the store, or anywhere where I needed to drive, I tried to park far away from the entrance in order to get a few more steps in throughout my day.  I also made a point of getting up out of my desk more frequently than I usually do.   Other ideas to try: use a basket instead of a shopping cart to carry your groceries or other items; do a few push ups and/or sit ups before bed or when you get up in the morning; if you're walking to and from in your home, try lunging to your destination instead.  Any little extra movement throughout your day will help keep the blood flowing and burn a few extra calories.
  4. Don't be too hard on yourself.  Beating yourself up about things you can't change doesn't change those things, it only makes you feel worse.  Be patient, the stressful times will end, and you will get back to your routine schedule when you can.  I know this is easier said than done in some situations, but if you have a positive outlook and know that things will work out in the end, they usually do.  That's how I approached my need of a new car.  With such a huge purchase, I didn't want to be hasty and buy the first one that I saw just to get the process over and done with.  I was patient and knew that things were going to work out how they were supposed to.  And sure enough, they did. 

I hope you all had a great week!  If anyone is curious, I DID buy a new (used) car this weekend (which is why my post is a day late) - a 2012 Nissan Altima.  So, some of the stress is behind me now, and I am looking forward to a less stressful, healthier week ahead.  I will be traveling to Nashville, TN to see my parents later this week, so stay tuned for some posts about the vacation and for some healthy tips while traveling and being away from home.  Enjoy your week!