When Stress and a Busy Schedule Gets You Off Track

Hello All!

I feel like it’s been ages since I’ve written anything. The last few posts throughout August I had set up months prior because I knew I would be busy and I didn’t want to neglect the blog. However, I thought that by September I’d be able to start where I left off and add posts and get ahead again. Wrong. Things have been non-stop. Not necessarily in a bad way but at times did and does get overwhelming. Because of this I got off track with not only the blog, but my eating, my allergy diet, and also exercise. Because of this, I wanted to share with you how I get myself back on track when things like this happen, even with a busy schedule. But first, let me share with you what got me to this point and 2 things I’ve learned about myself.

You don’t have to read my story. Just skip to the good stuff if you like. I don’t mind. : )

Putting Too Much On Myself

The last few years… years… I’ve been working on being reasonable with myself and knowing what I can handle and what I can’t. It’s always a learning process. There are times I realized I could have done more, and times I should have taken better care of myself. To know when I needed to go home early, or not volunteered my time I really didn’t have that should have been used in more useful ways so that I didn’t become overwhelmed. Or not scheduled every hour of the day thinking that I’m this ball of never-ending energy that’s always okay and can handle anything no matter how emotionally, physically, or mentally stressed and/or drained I already was.

No mental or emotional breakdown yet. And I do know when I need a mental health day or even just an afternoon to get me back on track. I’ve gotten that far. It’s a victory! However, that doesn’t mean I still don’t get myself overwhelmed and that I still need to learn and be okay with saying no to things and responsibilities that I can’t handle. That’s the next hurdle to overcome.

First Thing I Cut Out When Stressed or Overwhelmed

When things start to get busy, one of the first things to go is meal prep/planning for me. It takes time, planning, effort, and motivation. I don’t care how easy some people make it or how quickly you can get it done, it’s a chore. It can be a fun chore, but it’s a chore. It’s something that “has” to get done, but not really. And that’s why it’s the first thing to go. I have to keep my life in working order with laundry, having a clean and good smelling house, get to work, do the other things I’ve said I would do or help with family, etc. but meal planning – I can pick up something. I can throw a PB&J sandwich and carrot sticks in a bag and call it lunch. And dinners, whatever is simple, quick, and easy. I’m not about microwave meals, but already pre-made meals to heat up in the oven or something that I can make quick like pasta starts to become the normal. Then James starts asking for chili dogs and macaroni and cheese, or frozen pizza, or quesadillas, etc.

For a week or two, having this routine – it’s not a bad thing. We all have weeks to where getting something to eat to keep going is about all we can do. But when it goes on for months… Not counting 1 random Sunday I actually prepped a breakfast and lunch for the week, it has been since March that I’ve truly regularly meal prepped. I’ve gained weight I know. I don’t know how much yet. I’ll come to that when I’m ready to do something about it. And my digestive system can’t take much more. Even if the things I’m grabbing are “healthy”, I’m still constantly mixing in fast food and pick-up-and-go food to my diet all the time. Not to mention the cookies that have somehow found their place in my house on a regular basis.

To be honest, me feeling overwhelmed is probably, no most definitely, partly to do with how I’ve been eating. Because of having food allergies, it’s more than a physical reaction. It’s also emotional and mental as well. Eating things that are easy and half way prepared, especially vegetarian will more than likely have dairy and soy in it. Soy being my more major allergen. And then eating heavier and less healthy veggie burgers, etc. can mess up your digestive system. Then being stressed on top of it – my poor immune and nervous system has about had it. Nothing major, but enough to where I notice it. I feel overwhelmed. My digestive system is not normal – cramping, bloating, etc. And then sometimes I’ll feel tingling in the back of my legs to my lower back from my nervous system trying to keep up.

Getting Back on Track

Evaluate Your Routine

Look at your routine and see if you can find what you need to do and what you can do less of. Any gaps in your routine, keep them, but make sure you are at a place where you can relax and do something you enjoy.

A huge benefit is to make sure you are getting enough sleep. Not only will this help mentally, but physically and specifically with your digestive system.

Find Out What You Can Realistically Change

Change what you can. As mention above, sleep is one thing you can change now, and start today with a small change to your routine. Here are some other things I look at to see if it’s realistic for me to change or if I’m ready to change these habits.

  • Reduce caffeine and/or alcohol
  • Breakfast: I usually will have time to make a protein shake. My tip is to make sure there is a serving of vegetables (spinach) and if desired, a fruit with the protein mix.
  • Lunches: Don’t eat and go. Have at least 30 minutes of just sitting and eating. Don’t rush your eating times. Make time for it.
    • Try to find something that won’t weigh you down. Find a lunch either that you prep or can buy, but make sure it’s something clean and easy to digest that doesn’t feel heavy. If you are constantly on the move, then taking time to sit and eat a LIGHT lunch is well worth it. I usually make sure either I’m having something full of protein and vegetables or have a snack plate with nuts, vegetables, fruit, and maybe some cheese.
  • If you have 10 minutes and you are not physically exhausted, take a small walk. Even 10 minutes is worth it to relieve some stress and help you get your focus back. The more you can do, (longer or brisker walking) the more you will activate your lymphatic system which helps with detoxing. Something we always need when we’re stressed and haven’t been eating well. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20863266
Keep Looking Forward

Don’t try to do everything at once. Unless you are a person who is all in or nothing, keep making small changes to get your routine and diet back to where you want it. There is no set time to do this in. For some people it will take a day, others will take a few weeks, and others might be months, but keep looking forward. Realize what your next step can be and when you are ready to take it. Make a plan of action if you need to. Set goals. Whatever will keep you moving forward however fast or slow that might be, do it.

2019 Healthy Habit 1: Getting Enough Rest

From my previous post I talked about how my motivation is not at it’s peak in January and February. It comes with spring, so although a new month and year is a great idea to start new goals, I usually fizzle out in a few weeks and then go back to my old routine I had at the end of the year before. You have to be honest with yourself when it comes to goals and this is one of my honest moments. So instead what I do, and encourage those who have the same problem, is I think of things you can start doing now that are healthier habits, or the habits you can start now that will help with your motivation when it comes time for the more challenging habits later.

Photo by Tracey Hocking on Unsplash
Sleep In The Winter

The days get darker, the stress gets higher, and depression for a lot of people can be the worst in January and February. We are all just trying to make it to sunnier days. Some sleep more. Others are not able to sleep well. The less sunlight the more melatonin our bodies create and thus makes us more tired and sleepy. And the added emotional stress darker days can bring, it can have the opposite effect and keeping us up. So just because you might feel drowsy doesn’t mean you should keep hitting the snooze. Or just because “you don’t feel tired” doesn’t mean you can play another episode of your favorite show. No matter the time of year, our bodies still require the same amount of sleep. Of course the heavier meals, darker days, and warm cozy blankets make it hard to not to just want to nap and sleep longer. This is something I have to constantly have self control in.

Is there a danger in sleeping too much?

Sleeping Over 8 Hours On Average

Studies have shown that people who sleep more than 8 hours or up towards 10 hours have poorer health. Here are some of the results.

  • Increases heart disease
  • Harder to maintain a healthy weight
  • Can raise blood sugar levels
  • Brain fuzziness
  • They wake up more frequently & not getting enough deep sleep
  • Effect moods

Sleep is good and sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your health, but too much of a good thing can be bad. If you are sick or recovering from surgery – then sleep as long as you need. But on a regular basis, oversleeping can be just as bad for you in different ways than not sleeping enough.

Photo by Ludovic Toinel on Unsplash
Not Enough Sleep And Nutrition

For one thing we know sleep is important for the brain although it stays highly functional throughout sleep. It helps with moods, anxiety, we can think clearer, make better decisions, and are more motivated. We know it also effects our energy levels. When we are tired, we sleep, and (usually) we wake up and have energy to last the day. Sleep gives your digestive system time to rest. When you sleep the need for fuel is reduced and your metabolism and digestive system slows down. It also gives your digestive system added energy the next day to do it’s job.

What about specifically nutrition?

Sleep Deprivation:

  • Makes you more vulnerable to inflammation. Those with inflammatory digestive disorders like IBD or IBS, sleep deprivation can make this worse, and then lead to a lack of nutrient absorption.
  • Makes you crave sugar. Since you didn’t get a good night’s sleep your body wasn’t able to recharge like it needs to, so it’s crying out for energy! Your cell’s #1 source of energy is glucose (sugar). You start craving sugar in the morning and usually will reach for the less nutritious kinds of it. Move over apples, hello doughnuts!
  • Makes you more hungry. Your hunger hormone, ghrelin, is elevated after a poor night’s sleep to be able to get more energy through food that it lacked through sleep.
  • Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter and regulator when it comes to sleep. It is primarily found in your gut and is also essential for your digestive functions. If your levels of stress and sleep hormones, including serotonin, are not balanced, that means your digestive functions will be unbalanced as well. Your digestive tract won’t be able to absorb nutrients like it usually does or move the way a healthy gut would.
Photo by Sanah Suvarna on Unsplash
Bottom Line

Whether you are sleeping over 8 hours or sleeping 6 or less hours a night, get your sleep schedule back on track for your mental and physical health. People vary when it comes to their sleep needs, but normal hours are anywhere from 6.5 – 8 hours. Here are some basic things that can help.

Sleeping Too Much (More than 8 hours):

  • Sit up when you turn off your alarm.
  • Turn your light on. I have a lamp on my night stand that isn’t too high voltage so it doesn’t blind me, but has light. Light helps to wake your body up naturally.
  • Wake up and go to bed relatively at the same time (within 30 minutes) every day.
  • Have a wake up routine. Once I sit up I do something to stimulate my brain. Even just texting my husband good morning, since he’s usually gone by the time I wake up, will help. Then onto morning stretches and going out of the room to get my morning glass of water.

Sleeping Too Little (6 or less hours):

  • Set a time to be in bed 30 minutes or an hour before when you are suppose to be asleep.
  • No screens while in bed.
  • No alcohol an hour or two before bed. Although it’s a depressant and can make you feel sleepy, it doesn’t help your body naturally slow down, and puts excess stress on your liver when it already will be detoxing while you sleep. Alcohol also doesn’t help you stay asleep once you are asleep. A lot of times when I had a glass of wine too close to bed, I’ll wake up a good 3-4 times a night because I can’t stay asleep.
  • Have a night time routine. Some nights that might be hard for me to go to bed, I make an herbal tea – sometimes meant for sleep, sometimes not. I do something that is relaxing and doesn’t involve a screen. Reading a book or magazine, coloring, drawing, etc. Some additional things might be lighting a candle and listening to calm music while in bed.

Sweet dreams y’all!