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Aging Gracefully: When Stress Hits

Posted on Sep 01, 2015 in Beach Ready Spa , Massage , September–October 2015

By Lori Leath Smith

Stress hits. Period. And I’ve discovered that many times, what can make a situation stressful is that it’s usually sudden.

In my case, I was minding my own business, losing weight and feeling great, and then, life happened. One day, I’m basking in the success of body changes that have resulted in not only weight loss, but a more positive mental state and healthy way of life, which helped me feel stable and confident!

The next day, I found out I had less than 30 days to find a new home. For this busy mom and professional, it was surprising news. Immediately questions and uncertainty began to arise in my mind. And that secure, confident feeling was washed away in an instant.

Though some statistics show that moving is one of the top stressors, after the initial shock and not wanting to thwart progress on my health journey, I told myself I might be down, but I’m not out! Digging my heels in, I made up my mind to continue doing the things that have been successful during this pursuit of wellness, no matter what. After all, this is a lifestyle change and life throws curves all the time. It’s how we deal with those curves that matters. Encountering the ups and downs IN life, IS life. We all will, whether we want to or not.

I am determined to be not only successful in weight loss, but successful in handling life’s curves. I believe it’s HOW you handle a situation that defines who you really are rather than the circumstances of the situation itself. That’s graceful aging. And if something is truly worth it, like gaining health from pursuing a healthy weight, there is a way to continue to accomplish goals. Further, I am accountable to you, the readers, and others following this journey with me. And learning—a lot!

Having said that, this 50-something-year-old body has never understood how some people lose their appetite and weight when they’re stressed (not a good way to lose weight, however). My thyroid gland gets way over stimulated when stress is at a peak, making me seemingly ravenous at times. Not only hungrier, but also wanting those no-no foods I’ve been steering clear of. Or maybe it’s because negative stress makes me more tired and mentally spent. I think, “If I eat more, I will have more energy and alertness.”

Determined, I made a decision to stay on track as much as possible and not get discouraged if progress slowed a little. I also made a decision not to let my new healthy lifestyle become PART of that stress, giving myself a little leeway. Friends, family, Seaside merchants, guests and you, the reader, also have provided the extra encouragement for this journey. For that I am grateful. You are the reason I am so motivated for success. You continually tell me how this column has helped motivate you to better wellness and offer encouragement and hope. Sincerely, that’s the reason I write it.

One important decision was deciding NOT to sweat the small stuff.

I continued with my eating plan, nutritional supplements and exercise. But there were days when it was impossible, such as when I was working with a realtor viewing houses after work or other details. That time spent cut into my workouts, too.

Too often it seems people split hairs over minor dietary changes or missing exercise, which ultimately yields negligible changes. This kind of behavior results in unnecessary stress, and, quite frankly, my goal was to make this lifestyle change as low-stress as possible.

If I was out researching homes and had to grab a somewhat less-than-healthy dinner, I knew it wasn’t going to kill me, make me fat, or magically erase all of my progress. When pizza was ordered for everyone helping us move, I simply ate a little of the topping or just a few bites, and I was satisfied. I still drank mostly water and coffee (a necessity), and I told myself, “I will continue to eat healthy, just cut myself some very temporary slack.” I knew what WOULD thwart my progress was if I adamantly tried to be a purist with my program and ultimately was unable to maintain it perfectly. Not only would that significantly impede my progress, but, I felt, would cause even more stress. The balance was to maintain a healthy psyche while incurring as little damage as possible.

I preferred to focus on the good food choices I knew I could make. My Green Goddess from Raw & Juicy was a quick and easy diet staple, for example. And I continued to work out. Yoga classes at Seaside’s Believe Studio were calming, helped to keep stress levels down and worth every minute. By focusing on the positive, it helped promote a successful environment. Each day I WAS able to eat correctly and move for 30 minutes created a sense of accomplishment and positive results. If I had focused solely on those foods I shouldn’t eat or the workouts I was missing, it would have created a negative response along with a feeling of guilt.

Ways I alleviated stress while maintaining my health journey:

• I pursued 30 minutes of quiet time after rising in the mornings. This was a time of reflection and quiet meditation as well as reviewing tasks for the day ahead at work and beyond, keeping me grounded and beginning my day with confidence.

• I made a list of the important things I needed to handle each day so I felt organized and on top of things. If something didn’t get done, I told myself there would be another day to work on it.

• I exercised. Whether it was a yoga class at Believe Studio in Seaside, a pleasant, 30-minute walk on the beach, or a 30-minute workout at home at 8 p.m., I felt so wonderful afterward and much more peaceful.

• I felt it even more important to sleep well during this time and tried to get the correct amount of sleep, seven to eight hours a night.

• I tried to keep a sense of humor. Looking for small ways to laugh or chuckle throughout the day released so much!

• I looked for any way I could help others so as to get focus off myself. Little things mean a lot. You can simply listen to someone else’s challenges or grab something yummy for those in the office and help make your coworkers’ day special.

• I bounced off opinions and discussed challenges with a close friend. Not only did I search for a house and move, but once I found a house, a lot of construction had to be done. I was busy picking paint colors, tile, carpet, etc. Research has shown that having a close, confiding relationship protects us from many stresses.

• I kept some go-to meals and snacks in my desk drawer, purse, wherever. Some easy ones are nuts, fruit and protein bars. One of my favorites was to stock up on blueberries (if in season) from the Seaside Farmers Market. Because I don’t eat hardly any sugar, they taste very sweet. And, it’s a food item I can grab and snack on. Yum! And hardly a day goes by that I don’t eat an apple. My favorite is honey crisp!

• After I moved, I treated myself to a massage and Chakra at Seaside’s Beach Ready Spa. So relaxing, Chakra, a way to bring back balance and energy to areas of your body, helped me to relax and refocus so that I could concentrate on tasks at hand, and feel safe and secure doing them.

• When I hosted guests in Seaside, I would invite them to join me for healthy fare for lunch or dinner. One of my favorite meals is the Pan Roasted Salmon at Bud & Alley’s.Or the home-style veggies at Great Southern Café.

Throughout the past couple of months, I learned that I do have some control over the stress and choices I make in my life, even in the valleys. And I am pleasantly surprised at the positive benefits. When I finally weighed after this entire ordeal, I had actually lost pounds—41 total now! I have surpassed my initial goal of 40 pounds and that’s success, even in the midst of stress.

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