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Manage your stress, don’t let stress manage you

Posted Aug 24 2008 5:40pm

This has been a trying week for me. I'll start by saying that if there was ever a week that would make the Spin Diva break all the fitness and nutrition rules, this would have been the one. I could probably count many others that fall into this category, but let's stick to the year 2008 for now.

I'll spare you the details. In brief, I wrote an eight page report for my Linguistic Anthropology class (not something that comes naturally to me) and was proud to have completed this task only one day after it was due. I got up early to do one more edit before submitting this master piece. I was still in my PJ's, kids were either on their way to school or asleep, I had a hot latte in one hand and the mouse in the other. I settled into my little corner desk to 'edit' this report when I discovered it had vanished and all my hard work was gone along with it. My heart sank, I wanted to scream, cry, and yes, I wanted to say a few choice words when in through the front door comes the Conductor. You have to understand, seeing him come through the front door at 6:35 A.M. meant that he missed the bus and now I would have to drive him to school. Is someone playing a trick on me? I was in the middle of a crisis. Was I being tested?

He knew right away that things were not good and he probably wished he had just walked the five miles to school rather than hear me complain about my lost file. Thankfully, he's pretty level headed and patient and just watched me pace my kitchen as I tried to diffuse my anger by blaming Vista, the PC and Microsoft. I probably burned a few hundred calories just controlling my emotions and pacing.

My pride is to blame for my complete oversight. I did not properly save the report. It was gone, not in the hard drive, external drive, email, online…nowhere to be found. I'm not a computer techy, I just use the thing. Mr. Toolman also searched for over an hour and found nothing.

I decided within a few minutes that I needed to make things right and getting angry at the world, well, my computer (same thing), wasn't going to get my report done or get my kid to school. So I took a deep breath, made myself another latte, (hey I deserved all the coffee and doughnuts the world had to offer), drove my kid to school and came home to face my dilemma.

I find that when I'm stressed and tired I am able to focus better if I get a good workout. Fortunately for me, I was teaching on this particular day so I really didn't have a choice. I worked my muscles harder than usual (still feeling the pain today). In the middle of all this I had my clingy toddler pulling the paper out of the printer (hmm, maybe I should move it to a higher place); still had to drive kids to their activities, and somehow continue to control my emotions or I was going to eat everything in my pantry. That's what we call emotional eating.

Stress, mental exhaustion, and physical exhaustion can really do a number on the body. First comes the emotional eating (I deserve a brownie today), then the neglect (I can't go to the gym, I have work to do), and lack of sleep (…again, I have work to do). Here is how I made it through this stressful week:

  1. Exercise:
    1. Day 1: I worked in the garden, played with the kids, and ran around the house being chased by my toddler and my little girl.
    2. Day 2: I went to the gym and did a weight training class. I increased the weight and kept the number of reps the same.
    3. Day 3: I went to another class —my favorite of course—Spinning. Again, increased resistance, worked harder than ever.
  2. Nutrition (this was not easy):
    1. Placed a bowl of fruit on my desk, between me and the computer.
    2. Kept a 33 ounce bottle of water by my desk.
    3. My dinners were carefully planned to avoid a huge sabotage—big salads with whatever meat we were having that day.
    4. Snacked on protein smoothies made with bananas, pineapple, berries, mangos, papaya, etc… they were never the same but they were always delicious and very filling.
  3. Sleep:
    1. Gave myself a break. After everyone went to bed, I relaxed with whatever show I had recorded earlier.
    2. Took a bath, drank hot tea and slept better than the baby.

My point, we could choose to let the stressors in our daily lives keep us from being physically active. We could choose to let our emotions dictate what we eat. We could also choose to use this new energy in a positive way. If you're not already moving for your health, use your most stressful day to start because you are more likely to feel better after the workout then before. The problem will not go away, but you will be better prepared, mentally and physically, to tackle whatever comes your way. Manage your stress, don't let stress manage you.

By the way, my original report took three weeks to complete, one second to loose in cyberspace, and three days to rewrite. I think I did a better job the second time around. All this stress was actually good for me!

Stay well,

Spin Diva

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