Stress Less for Better Health 

I apologize that I have been MIA the past couple of weeks. Lots of stuff has been going on, and this blog post probably reflects that. It may be a little scatterbrained, but that’s pretty much how I’m feeling lately (not necessarily in a bad way), so prepare yourselves. I hope it resonates with you somehow, regardless of the lack of structure in the coming paragraphs.

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Raise your hand if you are guilty of wishing your life away. Don’t feel bad – I do it too. My friends and family have pointed this out to me before, but I have become more aware of the fact that I do it recently. By that I just mean saying things like, “I just want to fast forward to (insert month) so (super exciting event) will be here” or, “I can’t wait for (spring, summer, or other super exciting event) – I want it now!” While it is completely natural to be excited for the future and look forward to fun things that are coming up, do not be so eager that it takes away from what’s happening in the present; try to continue to enjoy each day that comes and goes.

The future will be here before we know it. I am actually amazed – and sometimes terrified – at how quickly life passes us by. Sometimes the days and weeks seem to drag on and on, but then all of a sudden it’s March and I’m thinking about how we just rang in the new year, like, yesterday. How did that happen?

I am 23 and 1/2 years young. There are a LOT of things that go down in your twenties, all of which somehow lead to discovering who you truly are as a person or what you want out of life – no big deal. It’s a bit of a whirlwind, if you haven’t gathered that from several of my more personal posts. Graduating college and/or going to graduate school, forming new relationships, starting your career, pursuing various job opportunities, finding a work-life balance, moving out of your parent’s house or to a new state, buying your first home, fluctuations in weight, getting engaged and married, traveling, getting a puppy, having kids, the list goes on and on. Some of these major life events can go pretty smoothly, while others… Well, not so much.

It is pretty much guaranteed that there will be bumps in the road, but don’t let that keep you from enjoying the crazy ride. I have this grandmother/guardian angel figure from the gym, who I have mentioned in previous posts. I recently ran into her during a time that I was extremely stressed about some things that actually do qualify as a few of the aforementioned major life events. I include that fact to make my stress seem warranted, which it was; however, stressing out about these things was in no way helping the situation, and she and I both knew that. She reminded me, “Don’t lose sleep over this. When God closes one door, he opens a window. Everything is going to work itself out.” And then she told me she’d pray for me. Just a few minutes after talking to her, I already felt more at ease. She was right. There’s no point in losing sleep about things over which you have no control. Focus your energy on the things you can control, and the rest will fall into place eventually.

Wouldn’t you know it, less than a week later I ran into her again, and by that time, both of the issues had resolved and one actually turned out better than I could’ve imagined. I thanked her for her advice and told her it was all thanks to her, to which she replied, “Oh no, honey! Give all the glory to God!” : ) What an amazing, humble woman.

Moral of the story: Let it be. I actually have this lyric tattooed on my side, as a reminder to Chill. Out. Unfortunately, I don’t do what it says most of the time. Very rarely do I just “let things be”. I am always craving control. I know I’ve mentioned this about myself before, most specifically in my post “Passion Vs. Obsession” about eating disorders, but that’s simply because that is my daily reality. I struggle with wanting to micromanage things constantly, and feeling completely overcome with stress about things that I can’t control. Thankfully, I know I’m not alone in that.

Thanks to this personality trait of mine, I have learned over time how huge of an impact stress can have on our physical, mental, & emotional health. I suffer from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and the doctors think that most of it is due to stress. I have my good days and my bad days, but I can tell you that it is particularly unbearable when I am stressing about something. Another issue that I experience when I’m stressed? Insomnia. (If I’m being honest, the majority of this post was written while I laid awake in bed, unable to sleep.) Lack of sleep leads to inability to focus the next day, which can result in lack of motivation to workout, let alone do anything productive, which can snowball into desire to eat unhealthy foods, which can lead to weight gain, which can lead to poor self-esteem, which can lead to depression, anxiety and more stress… need I say more?

Don’t get me wrong; most of the time I am a really happy, content person. But it doesn’t take much for me to turn into a stressed out crazy person. So what are some of the things that I do to help control & relieve my stress, you ask?

  1. Exercise daily — exercise is a proven stress reliever. There are 1,440 minutes in a day – find a way to dedicate at least 30 of those to exercise every single day. Your body and your mind will thank you for it. Exercise is my escape, and it makes me feel better 100% of the time.
  2. Take the time to prepare & eat healthy, yummy food every day — not only does this help me stay healthy and fit, it also keeps my IBS in check to avoid certain unhealthy foods, and I find cooking and baking to be therapeutic. : )
  3. Spend time with the ones I love, including my puppies — this is a no-brainer. What better way to get rid of stress than puppy cuddles?
  4. Get some fresh air — spring/summer is by far my favorite time of the year because sunshine makes the biggest difference in my attitude about life in general. I know it shouldn’t, but it does. Sometimes I really do think I suffer a little bit from seasonal depression, which is why I am so looking forward to the upcoming months!
  5. Pamper myself a bit — whether that is getting my hair or nails done or splurging on a massage, it helps me tremendously to do little things for myself that make me feel good. Self-care is so important. [Look good, feel good. Am I right?]
  6. Blog — sometimes this blog feels like a diary to me, if you couldn’t tell. This is just such an amazing outlet and a perfect opportunity to speak about the things I go through as a 20-something that I know a ton of my readers can relate to, regardless of age. (PS: thank you all for supporting that and allowing me to share my personal life with you, and for being nonjudgmental.) It truly does help me, and hopefully helps you realize that so many of us go through similar struggles. You’re never alone.
  7. Lastly, but most importantly, I pray. My goal for Lent was to attend church more often and so far I have made it every Sunday. I know that strengthening my relationship with God will help me deal with my stress more than anything else because I can lean on Him during times of fear and anxiety & know that He will take care of me, as well as the people I love. We all have to trust His greater plan & rely on that always, even though it can be such a challenge sometimes.

So I challenge you all to stress less for better health — find whatever it is that helps you cope with your stress. Try some of my favorite strategies. Find a way to make stress have a positive impact on your health. Take a long walk or run, start keeping a diary, spend time talking openly with friends about what’s going on, eat better, take care of your body, pray. If you suffer from stress, you are definitely not alone.

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Surprise, surprise. I’m sharing a Mexican recipe, and it also requires a crockpot. I made these fajitas a few weeks ago and they were soooo delicious! My favorite part was the fact that the fajita seasoning was NOT out of a package – it was made from all fresh spices & NO salt, but the end product was still so incredibly flavorful, fresh and healthy. My boyfriend and I LOVED these, so this recipe is a must-try for dinner ASAP!! 🙂

Recipe by: Cooking Classy 

Crockpot Chicken Fajitas

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast halves
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can petite diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • 1 red, orange and green bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 3/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp salt (I do not add salt) 
  • 3/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice (I used the juice of 1 whole lime) 
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • For serving: whole wheat flour tortillas, optional toppings: plain Greek yogurt, cilantro, salsa, guacamole, low-fat shredded Mexican cheese

Directions

  • Pour half of the canned tomatoes into the bottom of a slow cooker and spread into an even layer. Top with half of the peppers and half of the onions. Sprinkle garlic in. Top with chicken breasts.

  • In a bowl whisk together chili powder, cumin, paprika, coriander, salt and pepper. Evenly sprinkle half of the seasoning over chicken breasts then flip chicken and sprinkle in remainder. Top with remaining half of the tomatoes, then layer in remaining peppers and onions.

  • Cover and cook on HIGH heat 3 – 4 hours or low heat 6 – 8 hours, until chicken has cooked through and veggies are tender (note that if you want to be able to cut chicken into strips cook more near lesser time on HIGH or LOW, otherwise it will probably just shred, which is also fine).

  • Remove chicken, and cut into strips, or shred. Ladle out 1 cup of the broth in slow cooker (mostly tomato liquid) and discard. In a small bowl whisk together lime juice and honey and add to slow cooker along with chicken. Gently toss. Serve warm in warmed tortillas with optional plain Greek yogurt, guacamole, cheese and salsa.



I hope you all have an amazing, stress-free week! Happy March! 🙂

Shanna, RD

#wellnessforthewin

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