It's kind of funny that I'm writing about stress after we've all just gone through exams, finals, and juries. Now everyone is on to graduation, sleeping in and summer vacations.
For me, however, I've condensed my sunshine, staying in bed all day, TV-watching, and relaxing into one week, because I start my music therapy internship with Big Bend Hospice on Monday! Holy crap! I'm looking forward to a whole new chapter of learning and being in the full-time work life, but I have to admit, especially after how crazy the last few weeks were, I'm a little daunted.
In order to prepare myself and feel a little less overwhelmed, I've been planning (yeah, I'm one of those) how I'm going to take care of myself, especially after hearing my supervisor tell me that a lot of interns get sick during their first few weeks because of the change in schedule and environment. Here's what I've come up with, and I figure since we all go through stressful times, you might find some of these things useful the next time life gets a little crazy on you.
1. Omega 3 fatty-acids
There are two kinds of omega fatty-acids, omega 3 and omega 6. Most people, in ratio, have way more omega 6's than omega 3's, which can lead to brain fog, emotional instability, and anxiety. You can find sources of omega 3's from oily fish like salmon, avocados, coconut, grass-fed butter, nuts, and seeds, . This ratio can get thrown off by eating sugar and processed foods. 60% of your brain is made up of fat, so omega 3's are the real brain food. Supplementing could be useful for you, especially when stress is happening. Nordic Naturals is a great brand, which you can find here.
2. Dark leafy greens
Greens are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and help your body to detox and lower inflammation. They are also full of antioxidants. Anytime your immune system may be suppressed (like say, during stress), increasing your green intake is a great idea. You can eat a large salad with every meal or mix up a green smoothie. I've been really loving this right now.
3. Vitamin B Complex
Whenever I even think adrenal fatigue might be an issue for me, I start taking Vitamin B. You can typically get all of your B vitamins from vegetables, leafy greens, and animal fat/protein, but they can often get depleted when your stress levels stay up for longer periods of time. Your adrenals are what excrete cortisol, the stress hormone, and they're only meant to fire for a short period at a time. When they have to work overtime, they can burn out, which can make it really hard to feel energized and rested, no matter how much you sleep. Since this whole process can lower your Vitamin B levels, I usually take a liquid B complex supplement when I'm feeling busy or a little overworked. The only side-effects are an elevated mood and increased energy!
4. Eat every 4-6 hours
So this seems like common sense, but when life gets full sometimes eating is the first thing to go. Unfortunately, this may contribute to our stress. Skipping a meal can cause a blood sugar crash, leaving us feeling groggy, slow, and irritable (hangry). Then, if we grab that highly-processed snack or easy drive-through, the high-glycemic food causes our blood sugar to spike up again, giving us a burst of energy that quickly fades into another crash. And so it goes again. I know I am much more likely to go for the bread, sugar, and grease if I've waited too long to eat. My body is smart, it thinks, "Holycrapshe'snevergoingtoeatagainI'mgonnadieIneedcarbsrightnowohlookmeltedcheese!". The best way to avoid this roller coaster and keep your energy going all day is to sit down, put aside the work (Hi my name is Breana and I'm addicted to multi-tasking), and eat a full meal consisting of fresh vegetables, clean protein, and healthy fat.
Food is comforting, and often when we're stressed we reach for the carbs and sugar! I think there are two reasons for this: One, we're expending a lot of energy and may not be sleeping enough to keep up, so our body craves things that will give us instant energy. Two, sometimes stress can get us so riled up and anxious that food helps us to 'come down' and relax again. I think it's dangerous to ignore these cravings, especially during stressful times. For me, I know it usually results in spontaneously downing a pint of ice cream. So instead, I try to always have a few things in my house that can satisfy the craving and also fuel me up with some much-needed nutrients. Sweet potatoes are so comforting, especially when topped with some coconut oil/butter and cinnamon, can satisfy that sweet/carb craving and leave you feeling full and satisfied. Some of my favorite recipes are this one and this one. If you need a chocolate fix, this recipe for making your own chocolate is super easy, low-glycemic (if you use Grade B maple syrup), and delicious to have with some calming tea.
6. Daily Stress Reduction
Ok so I know I said I wasn't going to add to your to-do list, but this is something that I need to be better about so I'm going to share it anyways. Every day it's important to put something into your routine that's going to serve and support you in being your best. Especially in the music therapy world I'm about to delve into, how am I supposed be mentally, physically, and emotionally available to serve others if I haven't met my own needs? For me this might look like prayer, journaling, exercising, getting in the sun, taking a bath, or reading. If you're feeling too drained to engage, it might be good for you to figure out what this looks like for you and give it a go.
Obviously there are a million other things that you can do to help yourself during stressful times. These are just a few that have been on my brain. If there's something you love to do to love yourself when you're stressed, leave a comment below!