Did you know stress can build up over time? Like plaque on teeth???? *gasp*

Yeah, well, this past year has taught me the dangers of not sticking to a regular stress management routine, much like not brushing and flossing your teeth regularly can lead to some pain-filled moments. Oh, like after two months of non-stop road trips back and forth to my parents, to yoga continuing ed workshops, certification classes, and the daily running around of family life I collapsed in a heap last February with the dreaded flu.

I’d run over my de-stressing routine and left it on the side of the highway like roadkill.

While I laid in bed feeling sorry for myself, I got angry. What the fudge??? Why meeeee? Wah wah wah. Pffft. So pathetic. But when I was done being a baby, it became clear what I had done…or to be more accurate what I wasn’t doing: taking care of myself.

According to WebMD, 75 to 90 percent of doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints. And while stress won’t directly cause you to come down with the flu, it will weaken your immune system response, which will, in turn, make it easier for the flu virus to take hold.

Basically, I’d let years of a regular routine get derailed when the unthinkable happened: my mom was diagnosed out of the clear blue sky with Stage IV breast cancer. Stage IV. Out of the blue! That’s a big deal and I’m not beating myself up over getting derailed, really. What I am doing is pointing out that no matter how solid you think you’re healthy routines are, there are waves big enough to knock you off your feet.

We’re not tsunami-proof, no matter what.

After years of healthy eating, exercise, yoga, and meditation, my built-in routines were waylaid by the big C word. 15 years of steady growth and work, weight loss and maintenance–wiped out. Bottom line: healthy habits are not immune to the dreaded stressors of life.

While they do tend to make you more resilient, be careful about thinking you’ve got it all figured out. I’m here to tell you that is not your best defense.

What I learned is this: I’m human. Even though I knew exactly how to maintain a healthy lifestyle, I succumbed to the baser human desire for comfort. I dined on comfort foods I hadn’t turned to in years. I ignored the urge for my regular bedtime routine in favor of staying up late watching movies and zoning out. Don’t do that. At least, not for as long as I did.

I ran around like crazy trying to keep up with my commitments even though that little voice inside my head was crying “Mercy!”. I should have canceled some things. I should have, but I didn’t. Don’t do that.

And it took a raging case of the flu to pull my head out of my arse. But did I learn my lesson then? OH no.

It wasn’t until June at my regular checkup when I discovered I’d gained 15 lbs and my cholesterol was high that I really woke up. Mother bleeper! What the hell????? What had I done to myself?

So I’ve learned what not to do: don’t let one night of pizza and wine and Ho-hos turn into a long, dark pig-out fest of the soul. Don’t run yourself ragged; don’t skip healthy meals; and don’t stay up all night, or at least don’t make it any harder for yourself to get the rest you need.

 Do allow yourself treats once in awhile, but reinforce healthy eating habits by keeping herbal teas, and other healthy but comforting treats around for those times when you need something comforting but don’t want to overindulge. But don’t beat yourself up if nothing but warm chocolate chip cookies will do. It’s okay.

Don’t rely on caffeine and energy drinks to keep you going. You’re living on borrowed time, my dear. Have a cup of coffee in the morning, but not a pot. Those energy drinks and too much coffee have a way of depleting your reserves while making you think they’re refueling you.

Do take breaks throughout the day. No matter how busy you are, there’s time for a few minutes sitting still drinking a glass of cold water, maybe with a drop of Wild Orange or Peppermint essential oil for that pick me up effect.

Do cancel plans. Seriously, when there’s a crisis in your life, people will understand. Or not. But it doesn’t matter. What matters most is your health and sanity. Clear your calendar and make more time for the much-needed rest and recuperation you need.

Do keep healthy ingredients on hand for quick meals and nourishing drinks like a frozen fruit and protein powder smoothie or the Trim Healthy Mama’s Good Girl Moonshine. These are my favorites, but it doesn’t matter what recipes they are as long as you love them and they are good for you.

Do use aromatherapy. Diffuse some Frankincense, lavender, lemon, or any peaceful blend to help your mind and body settle down. Essential oils, when used aromatically, have a direct link to the amygdala, the place where emotions are processed, especially fear. This is where the fight or flight response originates. And what is stress? You guessed it: the triggering of the flight or fight response.

Do maintain a healthy bedtime routine. Diffuse Cedarwood and Vetiver in your bedroom to prime your body for rest. Whether you actually fall asleep or not, helping your mind calm down will help.

My bedtime diffuser blend:

  • 1 drop Cedarwood
  • 1 drop Wild Orange
  • 1 drop Vetiver
  • 2 drops Breathe

Some people use Lavender as well to help promote a restful night’s sleep.

Some other destressing activities I’ve gotten back into: exercise, daily short yoga routines (as short as 5 minutes), going for walks, knitting, reading, daily mediation (even 60 seconds in a pinch helps), and downtime with friends and family. Much downtown with friends and family.

I feel better AND I’ve lost 10 lbs.

And a few words on wine or any alcohol as a way to de-stress: use it sparingly and time it right. Now, if you follow me on Facebook, you know I love me some wine. I will have a glass a couple nights a week, but I have learned some valuable things like don’t drink it right before you go to bed. Best case scenario: be done drinking your wine 3-4 hours before bedtime.

Why? Because if you drink it too close to bedtime, you may fall asleep quicker, but you will wake up around 3 am feeling pretty crappy, maybe even anxious like me. Which kind of puts the kabash on the whole relaxing and detressing thing, right? Why does that happen? Blood sugar crash. Alcohol is a sugar, and one that is quickly abosorbed into the bloodstream. And it can also be processed just as quickly, leaving you suddenly very low on blood sugar.

Your body respons to low blood sugar by cranking up the adrenals. Not exaclty what we want when we want to destress.

Most importantly, I’m taking a few minutes every day to something fun, healthy, comforting, and/or soothing. It’s taken me months, but I’m finally on track, again.

And wiser than I was before all this happened.

Life is meant to be enjoyed.

And it doesn’t matter how bad the situation is, a little fun and relaxation is always, always a good idea.

Like brushing your teeth.

Much love and light!