Coming off one of the busiest “busy” seasons of my career, I have been thinking a lot about stress. Stress IS a normal part of life. We all have it in some form and it comes from a variety of sources, external and internal. Typically, our bodies respond to stress by activating our nervous system and outputting hormones. However, there are times when stress is increased or we operate in a stressful environment for a prolonged period. This heightened period of stress can impact our health in an extremely negative way. A prolonged period of high stress can alter our mental state, impair our sleep, cause cravings for certain foods and ultimately directly influence unwanted body changes.
In the midst of my tax busy season I found as I continued to push harder and say yes to more and more my mental state deteriorated. I became more irritable and at times abnormally emotional. My sleep was profoundly impacted. I would often feel pure exhaustion but have a complete inability to either fall or remain asleep. My weight crept uncomfortably up, my muscles were not recovering and I continued to become more stressed and overwhelmed. I knew I had to make a change but I also felt a desperate need to keep the wheels of the bus in motion. I feared if I took my foot off the gas pedal everything would fall apart.
It may not be the exact same story for everyone but I can imagine we have all experienced a period of heightened stress. Chances are there was little we could do to avoid the stress. We have jobs and responsibilities and commitments to many people and situations. It is likely that at times our lives are busier than normal. While we cannot just shut down and decide we no longer want to show up to work or keep our other commitments, it is important to manage our lives so we do not reach the point of burnout.
Once I came out of my busy season fog I made a promise to myself that I was not going to allow the overwhelming feelings to happen again by prescribing to the following:
- Sleep before everything else. If I cannot fit in something without sacrificing sleep then I need to re-examine my commitments. I am no good to others OR myself and my body without 7-8 of rest each night.
- I can say no and it is ok. Less really is more.
- Walking and low impact moving is sometimes more important for our body than a high impact workout.
- Meal planning and feeding my body whole, well-rounded meals is good for my brain. Relying on sugar-laden foods makes me feel sluggish.
- Caffeine can be a bandage if we begin to rely on it to get us through the day. Limiting my intake allows me to function on a more balanced plane.
- Recognizing the impact stress was having on my body allowed me to begin to undo the negative impact. I had to be kind to myself to start the recovery process.
The weight has started to come back off, I am sleeping through the nights and my emotional and mental well-being are operating at my normal levels. I am much happier which really the ultimate goal is. We all will have stress on a daily basis, how we manage it will impact our nutrition and wellness infinitely.
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