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Stress Detoxing

On Monday I wrote the biggest and most important exam I have ever taken. I passed the exam and earned a professional designation. Obviously, I’m insanely happy to have accomplished this but since Monday, I have been feeling really off. By “off” I mean the following:

  • Trouble sleeping despite being exhausted when I go to bed
  • Trouble controlling my appetite
  • As a consequence of not having good appetite control, I feel bloated
  • An underlying anxiety that I can’t quite put my finger on
  • A sense that things are out of control

All of these symptoms are the result of being stressed for a long period of time. The 6 weeks or so leading up to my exam were mentally exhausting and as the exam date got closer, my stress level increased. Mentally and physically, I just did what I had to do to achieve this goal and the price for that is stress.

So how do you combat this? How do you get back to feeling in control?

  1. Acknowledge all of your feelings. Do a brain dump of all the things that are bothering you and write them all down. Sometimes, even just acknowledging the things that are bothering you can make you feel better.
  2. If your eating is feeling out of control, reduce the number of carbs you are eating and extend the amount of time between your meals. This will help balance your hunger hormones. The thing not to do is eat tiny meals. Eat large, satisfying meals that are low carb…just space them out at least 6 hours in between. For some people, this may mean only eating two meals in a day.
  3. If you have some tasks that need completing, make a list of those and tackle the one that is bothering you the most first. This is an interpretation of Pareto’s Law: 80% of the effects come from 20% of the issues. Usually, once you accomplish the main thing that is bothering you, you will start to feel better.
  4. Do some restorative exercise. Go for a walk or a hike with beautiful scenery or take a yoga class. You want to get your blood circulating in your body without stressing it out even more.
  5. Connect with friends and family. If you’ve been feeling a little isolated, reach out to someone and say hi.
  6. Be patient. Your body needs time to recover. Focus on nurturing yourself and getting back to good health. Getting angry with yourself and trying to strong arm yourself into “being good” will only add to your elevated stress level.

Those are all my tips for getting back on track and recovering from a stress event. Have you ever tried any of these?

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Motivation Ranting

Motivation is a funny thing. When you have it, it feels effortless. When you don’t have it, it feels impossible to achieve the same effortless goal you were working towards when you were motivated. The good news is that motivation is simply a mindset and we have the power to instantly shift from one mindset to another on a whim. The key is to build enough momentum to stay in that mindset and that’s the hard part.

I want you to imagine your goal. Say it out loud. What does it look like? What does it feel like? Can you touch, taste, smell what it will be like? Then once you are really living and imagining achieving that goal, picture it shooting up into the air like a jack in the box. You’re left on the ground and that goal of yours is hundreds of feet in the sky. It feels impossible to get to so you wander around on the ground miserable because all of your hopes and dreams are out of reach. Sound familiar? It should because this is how most people live their lives every day. Scary right?

Well, good thing this is just your imagination and now imagine an elevator that will take you up to your goal. The only difference between this elevator and a regular one is that instead of pressing a button and being effortlessly lifted up to your goal, you have to actually work for it. There’s a crank on the wall and if you turn the crank, the elevator will start to rise. If you stop, it will start to fall. At first, the cranks are really hard. You have to use all of your strength and energy to make one turn and even then the elevator barely moves, but as you build up momentum, the turns get easier and the elevator begins to rise more quickly. Eventually, the crank is flying around and you are barely doing anything. You have built up enough momentum to keep the crank turning on its own without you having to put much energy towards it all. Before you know it, you’ve reached your goal at the top.

This of course, is all just a weird metaphor for what it is really like to achieve goals in real life and not just in your imagination. When we set a goal, often we don’t know how we will get there and it feels miles away and impossible. But if we just start turning the crank. If we can just pick one action a day that pushes you closer to that goal rather than further away, and use all our energy and strength to complete that action each and every day, it gets easier and easier until you have the energy to add an additional action that gets you closer to the goal and so on. Eventually you will have built up enough momentum to reach your goal and you won’t believe how easy it was once you got there.

This is where I am now. My weight loss goal has lost momentum and I’ve gained some weight back. Now, I can wander around helplessly feeling sorry for myself, or I can start turning that crank again. I acknowledge that it is going to take a lot of focus and effort to get back on track but I know it is possible. To be fair, this is the result of achieving another major life goal. We can’t be perfect in every area of life 100% of the time. So now, I reset my course and try to get back on track. Tomorrow: how I plan to do this.