MIND & BODY

Self Awareness and Stress Management

Hello Readers,

I’m circling back around to November things. I have been a bit off the grid lately due to the holiday season and trying to rework the site a little bit. (New layout! What do you think??) I shared my November Intentions on Instagram @myhomecookedlife at the beginning of the month. Writing down my Monthly Intentions is not something I do every single month, but when I saw The Balanced Blonde share her beautiful list it motivated me put pen to paper. For the 30 days of November, I wanted to work on starting and/or improving (to):

  1. Zap stress before it manifests.
  2. Read more.
  3. Don’t take things so personally.
  4. Improve my posture.
  5. Connect more with nature and enjoy the quiet moments.
  6. Get back in the rhythm with a night-time routine.
  7. Give love more freely.
  8. Use Sunday’s for as my ultimate plan day.

The main theme for my November was Self Awareness and Stress Management, which I believe go hand-and-hand with each other.  I must say that I totally nailed some of these habits(#1, 3 4, 5, 6), but other ones did not get as much attention and I will keep working on them. My experience with gaining more self awareness is that the more I can tune into my body, my emotions and my needs, the better I can take care of myself and give my body what it needs at that moment.

I’ll elaborate more on the stress portion in a minute, but until recently, I did not even realize that I was getting stressed out. It was usually over the littlest things, too! Usually over being late, having too much work on my to-do list and having too much dog hair on the couch. Let’s face it, these things are NOT going to make or break my day. Still, they brought about a sense of urgency or nagging that I was not doing enough (which is simply not the case). What I decided was this – Giving these simple things the power to stress me out, was essentially giving them the power to control me and reek havoc on my day. Also, gradually becoming more aware has helped me to better understand when I’m hungry versus just bored, when I’m not getting enough sleep or eating too much sugar, and even I’m procrastinating.

Now, let’s talk about Stress, shall we? I hear people say that you can really feel the effects of stress when you’re older. MY experience? I feel the effects of stress and I’m only TWENTY SEVEN. I am convinced that feeling the effects of anything is a matter of self awareness. Last night, I felt the effect of 1 glass of wine and how I was thirsty for water afterwards. Years ago, yeah, I could’ve drank a bottle and gotten away with it. But I’m not sure that I was aware of what dehydration and the side effect of poor sleep actually felt like for me. I think that the more in tune you become with your body, how you feel and how you respond to things, the better your awareness becomes.

So, here’s the fun stuff. We know that stress is inevitable. That’s why we have built in mechanisms to combat stress and even use stress to our advantage to overcome, but the body does want to return to a restful state at the end of the day. That understood, how can we improve our reaction to stress?

The first option is to Prevent stress: I am a planner and I like to set aside time on Sunday to preview my week – what I’m going to eat, my workouts, and what meetings/business commitments I have scheduled. By looking ahead, I can plan for making time for meeting my priorities. I, at least, feel like I am in control of my week and I am prepared for what I can prepare for. Ever show up to work in jeans when you have a big meeting? I don’t , because I look ahead at my schedule and make sure my laundry is tackled and ready for me when the time comes.

The second option is to Manage stress: When you can feel your anxiety level creeping up or you anticipate a stressful day is forthcoming, you can probably do things that will subside your anxiety or help to manage it when it occurs. Here is a list of simple tips I use to conquer stress and bring about a sense of calmness at various moments during the day:

  • Listen to calming music/white noise at work to mute other conversations and noises- I like spotify’s Ocean Waves playlist
  • Walk a few laps around the building.
  • Workout during my lunch-hour to get rid of the built up stress and regain focus to tackle the rest of the day.
  • I keep a resistance band and soft hand-therapy ball at my desk to use as a stress ball and roll out my muscles when I need to take a brief break. The simple act of movement and repetition can bring me to a meditative state.
  • Read my daily Moments of Happiness by Gretchen Rubin. I get these emails each morning and I will either read them first thing, or save them for when I need a little break and reflection in the middle for the day – Bonus: I also drop my favorites in a folder to come back to whenever I need a little mood booster.
  • Take a breathing break – either at my desk with my eyes closed, or go hide in the bathroom, literally #noshame
  • Make a social connection – having an unrelated conversation with a co-worker or reaching out to a friend via text or social media can provide a short break but also help to feel connected socially.
  • In the words of Nike, Just Do It. If it is a nagging task that has me stressed, I tell myself to face the truth that I will have to do it sooner or later. I actually have a post-it at my desk that reminds to me “eat the ugly frog first.” ;p
  • If I feel like I have a million thoughts swirling in my head and I actually need to retain some of these thoughts – I make a list! This creates a soft of disconnection and frees up brain space by placing the thoughts in a tangible form that I can come back to when I’m ready to address them.
  • Organizing – organizing can be prevent stress, but it can also be a way to tame stress. Does your cluttered email inbox bring an overwhelming sensation whenever you sign-in? Organize your inbox with folders, delete the spam and you’ll feel 20x better, I PROMISE.
  • Slowing down. Taking things 1 task at a time. “Act how you want to feel” I’m not sure where I read this first, but I fully believe it makes a difference. In the morning when I am running behind (aka everyday) I will be running around trying to find my belt, make my coffee, cagethe dogs in the kitchen, then run back to my room to put my shoes on – the act of rushing brings my anxiety level up. I can *feel* it immediately. By the time I get out the door, I feel bad, I feel late, I feel stressed. Note to self: stop rushing, slow down and the morning will be much more peaceful.
  • Work a task from start to finish to avoid interruption-induced stress.
  • Has stress zapped your energy? Instead of meditating, take a nap. Seriously, crawl into your backseat on lunch time and recharge your batteries with a 20 minute snooze. I don’t advocate regular napping, because your night-time sleep should be enough to get you through, but some days this may be just the thing you need.
  • Minimize electronic interruptions – I screen my phone calls at my desk and I flip my cellphone over after turning it on silent when I don’t want to be interrupted. I’ll also  wear headphones when I’m in the middle of an important job because people are less likely to interrupt me with meaningless convos when I put this barrier up. This works so beautifully.
  • If possible, leave. Take a break from your current environment. If I have errands to run, I can leave my desk and get away from the office. When I come back, I feel like I have hit the reset button just by changing my surroundings for a short period.
  • Have a cup of tea, I love Herbal blends – Yogi is my favorite brand and they have a Stress Relief blend that is absolutely yummy! Having a warm drink while I’m working, especially in the afternoon, really helps to calm me and keep me focused. It also keeps my sweet tooth at bay if my blend is sweet. Just try to forgo caffeine which can raise your stress level even more.

I’ll continue to add to this list when I find more tips and tricks to tame the stress demon! I hope this helps you. Feel free to share your stress hacks below!

 

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Know Your WHY

Hello, readers.

Moment of Truth here. I’ve been struggling a little bit with what this blog is all about this past week. I started writing and sharing because I wanted to put little, bite-sized pieces of health-related information out there for the people that are overwhelmed with where to start in their personal health journey, be it food or fitness or both. This is for those who want to have more energy, feel better in their own skin, sleep well at night and want to have the right mindset to lead a balanced, less-stressed life. So, in order to help me overcome this nagging sense of purpose and what to write about every week, I asked myself, “Why?”.

Why did I start this blog? What do I want to gain from this experience of sharing information? What kind of information or stories do I want to share? What can people(readers like you!) gain from reading my stories and articles each week that you can’t read or gather elsewhere? Here is what I came up with.

My mission is to inform others that you can take improve your state of being with food, movement and a healthy mindset. It all starts with small, manageable steps. I want to let others know that you can improve your overall health through eating real food. Hence, cooking more home-cooked meals 😉 What I think is even more important than knowing you should be preparing your own food is knowing that preparing real food does not have to be difficult! I also want others to know how important it is to implement movement into your day, breath deeply and feel alive. Living a life that fires you up and makes you feel great is within your reach and wouldn’t be attainable without a positive mindset

So, what can readers find here? a.k.a., How can I achieve my mission? I will be featuring stories about my latest adventures. My latest home-cooked creations. What foods I’m currently digging and learning more about, the latest workouts I’ve tried and the things I’m doing to be in a better state of mind. I hope to educate and inspire readers to embrace our primal roots through sharing my journey, writing some articles and concocting a few recipes here and there.

Now, do the same thing for yourself. Ask yourself “Why?”. If you’ve stumbled upon this post then I dare say that there has to be something you are striving towards. Why do you want to improve your diet? Why do you want to lose weight? When it comes to Goal Setting, there has to be a purpose, also called a mission, and a list of objectives that will help you accomplish your goal. I shared my Why (my mission) and objectives with you above.

I challenge you to practice this exercise on your own time. If there is a goal that you want to achieve then identify your why (your mission and purpose) and your objectives. Objectives make accomplishing any goal easier as you are creating a list of actionable steps that you will take to make that goal a realty. If you want to get really fancy with your goal making then set some deadlines so you have a timeline to follow and keep you on target. Maybe you want to do this in writing and keep it in a place you’ll frequently visit and be reminded of this goal, like your phone, a post-it or your journal. Whether in plain sight or put away, you can come back to your Goal Setting intentions when you need a reset and to remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. Over time, you may notice that your purpose has changed or even your goal has shifted from one thing to another.

I really hope this helps some of you that may be struggling towards a goal, or if you’re in the process of deciding whether or not you are ready to start your own health journey. Reach out in the comments below if you have any thoughts or questions about this topic.

What I’m Reading: Eat the Yolks

This is the first of many, “What I’m Reading.” Or really, “What I Just Read” because why would I write a page about a book I have not finished? That does not make sense, but the first title sounds better. So, here goes 😉

I just closed the cover on Eat the Yolks written by Liz Wolfe, Nutrition Therapy Practitioner (NTP). My friends might say that I admire Liz Wolfe because she is homesteader, as was I in a former life. But really, I am so inspired by her passion for sharing real food and advocating this lifestyle. The whole chicken flock and farm-thing is just a bonus. If you need some convincing of her awesomeness then head on over to her website, RealFoodLiz.com.

In Eat the Yolks, Liz Wolfe emphasizes that what truly will nourish the body is a diet composed of nutrient-dense, properly sourced foods including meat that has been properly fed and raised and produce grown in nutrient-rich soil. Her writing approach is very non-dogmatic. So, don’t worry, she is not going to slap the muffin out of your hand. She will, however, share with you the facts about grains and the evolution from what our ancestors ate compared to what we now refer to as grains.

What I like most about the presentation of her food philosophy is Liz does more than just tout the benefits of a paleo diet, she tells you why. She tells you how many dietary myths of today came to fruition, because to understand why our country is in the current state of health, you really have to go back to the beginning.

From her writing I have learned that it’s not really our fault. It is not our fault that we (my generation being the Generation X-ers) have lived much of our lives believing that butter is bad and red meat will lead to heart disease and you must eat your recommended daily servings of five grains per day. We were trained to think that fat is bad, red meat will clog your arteries, and veggies will save the world. These teachings were founded on research and experiments, most of which were conducted thirty, almost fourty plus years ago. Or so we thought. The truth is that really smart people have made mistakes interpreting data, or rather, were really confident extracting meaning from inconclusive data, and then got too-friendly with the wrong money hungry corporate sponsors to promote their said interpretations and here we are.

Here we are. And for the younger generation like me, we were born and raised into this way of food-thought. We were raised thinking that fat-free ranch, the diet soda and whole wheat bread is better, among many, many other things. Here we are, but we know better now.  Thanks to newer research and studies, and closer peer review of the previous studies, we know that the fat-free, sugar-free and grain-based carbs way of thinking is simply not what is good for our bodies. Now, we know that many of the things we learned in Health class about our body’s response to food have been debunked (thanks, Liz) and we can now make better decisions for the sake of our long-term health! Oh, and in case you were wondering, you should eat the yolks.

Up next for “What I’m Reading” is former biochemist Robb Wolf’s (no relation to Liz) latest, Wired to Eat. It was recently released and when I pre-ordered it came with Robb’s 30-Day Master Reset Workbook (among many other goodies). What attracted me to Robb’s approach in his new book is that he, much like Liz in “Eat the Yolks”, tells you it is not your fault for wanting to eat that slice of pizza (or the whole pie). Humans are hard-wired to desire “hyperpalatable” foods because these foods are designed (literally, designed in a lab) to leave us craving and wanting more of them. I have been waiting for the perfect time to sit down and read about his latest research, as well as perform the Reset and the 7-Day Carb Test. As someone that is very active, I know that there is a place in my diet for carbs. Not to mention, I also feel really good when I have my sweet potato with a drizzle of honey or some corn from the summer garden. I’m looking forward to seeing how my body reacts to certain foods and using the Reset to clean up my diet and test out certain intolerances I’m skeptical of. Stay tuned for that.

Have a comment? Want to recommend a book to me? Leave a comment below!

 

I may earn commission for any products recommended in this post, but I assure you that all opinions are mine! I will never recommend a product or service that I would not personally use or refer to a friend.