STRESS – that inevitable part of life that can foil any day, week, or month! With school quickly approaching, stress levels are likely to rise, which can really ruin a healthy lifestyle routine. Whether you have kids in school or not, I think the seven steps I’ve shared below can really keep you on track with life, exercising, and healthy eating.
If you know me at all, you know I love food – healthy food, in particular. Unfortunately, when a week gets insanely busy, the first thing to go is the healthy meal plan. In order to eliminate (or at least limit) the take out and delivery, the most important thing I do in a week is meal prep. On Sunday morning, I come up with meals I would like to eat during the week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I then head to Fresh Market, grab my ingredients and then prep for the week. 6 breakfasts, lunches, and dinners are made and packed in individual containers; fruits and veggies are pre-cut and put in snack bags; KIND bars are laid out. (If this kind of prep sounds daunting, don’t worry! – my slow cooker saves me hours of cooking!).
This kind of meal prep keeps me on point for the week. If I decide to eat out one of those days or nights, that meal gets put in the freezer for future use.
My savior. In my main hallway, I have my whiteboard calendar, which I update every few weeks, so I can always look a few weeks ahead. This calendar works great for me because I have to look at it when I leave in the morning and get home at night. The most important part of this calendar is my color-coding: red identifies non-negotiable items, the must dos of the week; blue for the items I can move around; pink for the events of the week that sound fun; green for birthdays and anniversaries. You can obviously use some sort of smart phone or iPad (I’m not so technologically savvy), but be sure to use the color system – only listing mandatory things in red helps keep my stress level down because I know the other things are more negotiable.
3)Keep your MAIN focus only one day ahead
Now I just told you that I have my whiteboard calendar set for a few weeks ahead, but in reality, I really focus on the day ahead. If I were to constantly focus on the whole week or next few weeks, I’d be a ball of stress – I prefer to set small goals. By looking only at the next day, my week seems more manageable to me. I can more easily set my sleep schedule, manage my work time, and my free time. This type of scheduling helps me live more in the present moment, as opposed to in the future, which, quite honestly, is not guaranteed.
I told you, I like food. Seriously though, I schedule time for breakfast. The worst and most stressful thing for me is a chaotic morning, when I feel I’m running late. To eliminate that unnecessary stress, I put in RED, 30 minutes to sit down and eat. Now, if you remember, my breakfast is already made from Sunday, so I just need to heat it up and make my coffee or tea, which leaves me 28 minutes to watch the news, listen to NPR, or read the paper… in peace… enjoying a quiet city. This calm start to the day provides me a nutritious breakfast and enough energy to get me to lunch. I love food.
The most important part of my day, aside from eating! In order to not be cranky, I need 7-9 hours of sleep. This totally and completely varies from person to person and you, individually, need to decide what works for you. Now, since I already know what my next day looks like, what time my first client is, my what time my breakfast is, and what time I need to walk my furchild, I know what time I have to get up, and therefore what time I have to go to sleep. Backing into my scheduled sleep ensures me that I get to bed on time and get the rest I need. I know that stuff comes up and you don’t always get to bed on time, which is why I schedule 9 hours for sleep and hopefully get that at most… if my day runs long, I get 7 at least.
6)Schedule down time
Regardless of how busy my day is, I schedule mandatory down time every day… in RED. My down time is separate from my workout time. This is the time that I can mentally check out and its OK! It doesn’t need to be a lot, but every day, I schedule at least 30 minutes of purely me time. I use this time to meditate, read, simply sit outside in the sun doing nothing, take a bath, etc. – really anything that I feel my body needs that day. Now, my only child is my fur child, and I completely understand that having human children is a different story… 30 minutes of down time in addition to working out time may be completely unreasonable, and that’s fine! But take at least 5-10 minutes to yourself – lock yourself in the bathroom, sit in your car before you walk in the house, anything to give your brain a break and yourself some time.
7)Scheduled workout/active time
When I look at the next day on my calendar, I put in RED at least 30 minutes of workout time. On my busier days when a really good workout is not that possible, I’ll get up a little earlier and take my furchild for a longer, faster paced walk; or I’ll schedule, in red, some extra time at the studio that is for me. On a day that I have more time, I will block off anywhere up to 2 hours that I do some sort of physical activity that makes me happy. The key is that it makes me happy – if I chose a physical activity that seems like work, it becomes that. Find something active that makes you look forward to it. Note: I set aside part of that time for the shower I will definitely need after… seems silly, but the shower schedule is important.
Please keep in mind that these are only tips… little things that I do to keep my stress levels down. Of course, it is fairly impossible in today’s society to be stress free, but by doing these 7 things every day, I have to say my life is pretty amazing.
Keep Calm and Pilates On,
Alix Terpos PT, DPT