Stress is a crazy thing. There are million and one proverbs, clichés and admonitions about how going through times of trial and tribulation bring out one’s true colors or show what someone is made of. And while that’s all true, valuable, and potentially reassuring – it often doesn’t feel like it (or like it matters) in the moment, nor do I always like to be reminded of that fact. I’ve mentioned before that my own personal, very unattractive natural tendency when I am out of time, patience, or energy is to become a “dictatorial steamroller.” Since I am aware of this proclivity, I try to pay attention to the times when I am getting close to this state and take steps to avoid it, often by treating myself like a two year old and avoiding hANGER, giving myself a timeout, or just going to bed. Although unfortunately, I’m far from completely eradicating myself from this plague, I can say with confidence that simply being aware of situations when I am likely to transform into a dragon has helped a lot in avoiding full blown fire-breathing meltdowns. And I would argue the same is true when it comes to maintaining healthy habits across a variety of different facets of life. If we can recognize our “tells,” we can increase our self-awareness and better deal with seasons of stress. In other words, by noticing patterns in our own behavior earlier, we can more deliberately choose the path that we continue down or avoid.
I’ve made a few big moves over the past several years which truly transformed my life – moving away from Grand Rapids, MI to Providence (where I only really knew my friend Allyson) and then moving to downtown Boston with Jon (something we definitely couldn’t afford at that point aka more stress) and then across the Atlantic to Ireland (it doesn’t matter that the language is more or less the same, that we have internet, and all the rest – this was a huge change). I know that moving is not easy or pleasant for nearly anyone. However, as a creature of habit and someone who thrives with routine, planning and preparation, moving has proven to be a level 10 anxiety provoker for me. I hate disorder, not knowing where XYZ amongst the multitude of boxes, not knowing when and where I’ll barre, or even where I’ll buy toothpaste locally. True, this time around should be easier as we prepare to move back to my hometown (I know where the toothpaste is at least) near to my family, but I also have also been around the block enough times by now to know that this will be a season of stress for me and I need to take care of myself accordingly.
Lest that sound nebulous or unrealistic, I have learned throughout my experiences with the Whole30 and in time spent in habit research that there are extremely practical ways that I can do this which don’t require taking the entire day off for the spa (although that doesn’t sound too bad either 🙂 ). And for me, this means avoiding decision fatigue or falling into unhealthy habits when it comes to food. More explicitly – I make a commitment to eating extra healthy in seasons of stress, following a Whole30 meal template. Like so many other people, I have in the past fallen prey to reaching for food to self-soothe when feeling anxious or overwhelmed, but like everyone who has done so, have found myself in no better place in the end. In fact, for me personally, the exact types of foods I would be inclined to reach for to comfort or calm myself are anxiety inducing in and of themselves. And in making a decision now to stay the course when it comes to my eating habits, I eliminate potentially mentally taxing choices later on about whether or not I will “indulge in XYZ.” In seasons of stress, it’s better to conserve my willpower energy for more important things than whether or not that cupcake is worth it.
So I’m working on my meal plans for the rest of my time on the Emerald Isle. Less than three weeks from now all my kitchen stuff is going to be sailing across the ocean so I know that a little advanced planning now will help. And I’m also recalibrating my own expectations – not every meal I eat in this or other seasons of stress is going to be the most amazingly elaborate I’ve ever had. It’ll be mostly simple, but all clean which is just what I know that I need to avoid Dragon-Lady status. And besides, simple and clean can still be delicious. And in case you’re looking for proof – try this meal prep, on-the-go-friendly Whole30 Chicken Fajita Protein Salad.
- Chicken Breast, Cooked, cooled and diced 4 each
- Red or Yellow Bell Pepper, diced 1 each
- Medium Onion, diced 1 each
- Jalapeno/Green Chile, minced 1 each
- Avocado 1 each
- Zest and Juice of 1 Lime
- Chili Powder 1 TSP
- Cumin .5 TSP
- Sea Salt and Black Pepper to Taste
- In a large bowl, smash the avocado and then combine with the spices, lime zest and juice
- Mix all the chopped chicken and veggies in, stirring to incorporate the avocado mixture and then enjoy on top of a bed of greens for a super easy, but satiating lunch option!