It’s December, the craziest time of the year. You have to be everywhere, there’s a million things to do, and that’s on top of your regular work schedule and family duties.
And there may be additional stuff: Kids get sick, finances are tricky, relatives can be difficult. In my case, my book launch is imminent, internet trolls are attacking, and a public health revolution is happening, as well. Throughout all of this, self care is essential.
But, the stress! There’s times when all we want to do is vegetate with a bowl of something sweet and fatty and sit on our butts, for hours. Netflix binge, anyone?
The problem is, none of that helps with the stress… It makes it worse, and can spiral out of control. We say things like I fell off my plan or I’m way out of balance right now.
Unfortunately, it’s what alot of us do. From my book, Healthy Habits for Your Heart:
In a 2013 survey of almost two thousand adults in the U.S., 38 percent reported overeating or eating unhealthy foods because they felt stress, and half reported doing so at least once a week. What can make this even more harmful is that people often crave sugary or carbohydrate-dense foods (“comfort foods”) when they’re stressed. Hormones such as cortisol, released during stress, cause more of that food to be stored as fat. This pattern of eating can lead to obesity, high blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease. It’s a big problem, but it can be solved.
So how can the stress-eating problem be solved? Let’s take a step back. Here’s the big picture:
Many people say: “It’s hard to live healthy when you’re feeling stressed.” The opposite is also true: it’s harder to feel stressed when you’re living healthy. Getting good nutrition, exercise, and sleep, plus having a solid support system, are all critical components of a basic self-care regimen, which will help you when you’re faced with life’s challenges.
But it’s hard to make good self-care happen in real time. I mean, we work. We’re parents. There’s bills to pay, meals to prep, deadlines to make. Then there’s the holidays, and crises. Kids get sick, we’re on call, all the usual stuff.
So how do we make it happen?
The short answer is, read my book. (Just kidding!..Not really though, since that is seriously what it’s all about.)
OK, really, here’s the secret: Self-care is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle, and we make it happen by incorporating it all into our everyday, regular daily life.
In other words, we make it habit.
Here are some introductory tips:
- Study yourself: Notice what makes you feel stressed or distressed. Can any triggers be avoided, or can these negative emotions be managed in a healthier way?
- Schedule in self-care: The things that make you feel healthy-good, give you energy, and rejuvenate your soul need to happen, full stop. Prioritize and pencil them in.
- Use premium fuel for your body: You deserve the super high-grade stuff. That means getting in plenty of plant foods (fruits and vegetables, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds, whole grains) and minimizing processed crap (fast or frozen meals, sodas and juices, anything made with regular white flour or with added sugar).
- Exercise, it’s anti-stress medicine: This can mean a million different things: Walking or standing as much as possible (i.e. not sitting), fitting in a small workout wherever you can (take the stairs, use a carry basket instead of a push cart), and choosing physical activities for fun (take the family on a hike or for a swim, play with your kids at the playground).
These tips are only for starters. (Believe me, I’ve got 60,000 more words on this topic.) It’s worth investing time and energy into figuring this out, because once good self-care and a healthy lifestyle become deeply ingrained habits, you’re less likely to get thrown off your game by whatever life throws at you. It becomes easier to stay balanced, and you’re more able to be there for others when they need you.