STRESS: Begin recording a stress journal. (This came with very specific instructions, including folding pages and making columns and what to write down and when.)
SEROTONIN: Take a brisk walk in the sunshine (without sunglasses) for 20 minutes every day.
HORMONES: Focus on a healthy diet. Key words: reduce, increase, replace.
The Stress Journal: I have to admit, I’m not actually doing this with any sort of regularity. For one thing, with the amount of self-surveying and writing I currently do, I should be fairly well aware of my “stress triggers” and responses. Rather than keeping a list of the things that stress me out, it would probably be more healthy to make note of the exact times of day I am short tempered, tired, or generally grumpy. As John has been saying all along, my moods have far more to do with my sugar levels than anything else.
20-minute Brisk Walk in the Sunshine: You know it is amazing how actually good this is making me feel. I’m not sure if I can credit just the walking and the sunshine, however. I like to think that Madonna and Michael Jackson on my iPod are playing key roles in boosting my mood. It isn’t as if I was ignorant to the fact that exercise is a mood booster. Need I remind you I’ve run two marathons and spent three successive summers in college basically living on my bike? The thing is, since having Carter, I simply haven’t taken working-out all that seriously. In large part, this is due to a steadily growing back pain that I finally broke down and saw a chiropractor about when I was still teaching. John had back surgery on some ruptured discs in his lower back the summer before taking the bar exam. Describing the kind of pain I’m in, he’s all too familiar with what is probably going on. The chiropractor confirmed that I have terrible posture, some bulging discs, and moderate to severe scoliosis. Awesome! Unfortunately, at $40 a pop (literally), I just couldn’t justify a potential life-time investment in something that was likely helping, but possibly not curing my problem. When I stopped going, I also stopped working out. Training for and running the Mud Run was the first real physical challenge I’ve put my body through in almost 2 years, and my back has been screaming at me ever since. Even these easy little sunshine walks aggravate it. My solution is arriving with my parents this Friday. (You think I’m joking. Get excited.)
Eating: Originally, this seemed even sillier to me than the stress-journal. Honestly, I think my family is above average in how healthy we eat. I’ve always been of the mindset that a meal isn’t complete without at least one fresh fruit or vegetable. Certainly, once the girls were done with daycare food, there was a noticeable difference in their attitudes, sleep, and overall health. It also has helped that I recently discovered how much I like Brussels sprouts. We probably eat them twice a week. I’ve also begun adding Kale to our meals once or twice a week, in things like enchiladas, soup, and hot salads. (I read somewhere that it’s a “Super Food” and decided I needed to be a part of that club.) John has always been a big fan of red beans and rice, and last winter it seemed like Bon Apetite published a “meatless Monday” recipe every month that included slow cooked beans of some sort. So we’ve been somewhat hooked on variations of this poor man’s meal. All in all, I’ve been telling myself I eat healthy. And getting on the scale every so often has been (wrongly) confirming that.
This was until John pointed out how many of the chocolates on top of the fridge had been eaten in three days, and announced that he hadn’t had any yet. Uhhh… *On a side note, I’d like to say that if I were choosing my religion based on holidays and chocolate, I’d still be a Christian. We probably had four times the amount of chocolate in this house following Easter than we did after Halloween. This is where the stress-journal should probably be converted to a sugar-journal. Every single day, at about 10:30 in the morning (with my first uninterrupted cup of coffee), again at about 2 o’clock (when the girls are down for naps), and finally, at 8pm, I like to celebrate my alone time with something sweet. I think this is what Oprah calls “Emotional Eating.” I’m actually pretty embarrassed to admit that I suffer from it. There was one week where the Valentine’s Day candy had finally run out and it wasn’t yet time to crack open the Easter baskets. You would think in my frantic search for something sweet that when I finally dipped a spoon in peanut butter, honey, and chocolate syrup, it might have been a red flag into my sugar addiction. You would be wrong.
So I’ve done my best to cut back on and cut out sugar. I’m not doing very well. The morning after the day I indulged in absolutely no refined sugar was the first morning in a long time I can remember waking up headache free. However, in just three days I’m supposed to replace coffee with something like green tea, and this has me very wound up. One thing at a time people.