For both me and my partner, life and work get particularly chaotic and demanding each summer. With seasonal projects, work travel and taking on extra contracts, it’s always a challenging season that we don’t get to enjoy as much as I’d like (in spite of how much I LONG FOR summer weather to arrive!)
I find it especially hard to be home alone, at a time of year when I’m likely to be at my busiest and most anxious. My boyfriend is a homebody too, and hates being away – so it’s a lot of stress all around! This is our third summer of work travel, being apart, and crazy schedules – and I’m happy to say that I’m learning some important things as I go.
I bring this up because when we experience a big change in routine, it’s so easy to fall into unhealthy habits – both mental and physical. I can list three examples already from the last week:
- I went to an evening event and ended up drinking a glass of wine on an empty stomach. As I was coming home from my work day at 10pm, I ate hummus and crackers for dinner on the train. I felt terrible the next day heading back in to work at 8:00am.
- Every time I was delayed in coming home last week, I felt justified in not wanting to cook or workout – as if I’d earned an evening free of responsibilities. Or I just felt too drained to move.
- When I’m feeling anxious, nothing sounds appetizing and I don’t sleep well. I forget my normal sleeping and eating patterns because suddenly I’m wired and have no appetite.
I’ve realized how incredibly toxic and habit-forming daily unhealthy choices can be. Skipping your workout, skimping on sleep and grabbing a drive-through dinner are all fine once in a while – but when these slowly become a weekly tradition, it’s easy to lose sight of a tipping point.
While these are more obvious habits I recognize as detrimental to my health, I’ve come to see that other minor triggers can agitate my stress levels – if even on a subconscious level.
I’m far from perfect, and still working on these – but these are some realizations that are helping me stay grounded and healthy this summer.
Here are four stress triggers I didn’t even realize I had.
- “Fun” TV Distractions
We all do it: turn on a comforting parade of Friends episodes as a soothing soundtrack when we’re home alone, or when we have a big chore to undertake. I’m all for this if it helps you – but for all these years, I never realized it wasn’t doing me any favours. In fact, it slows me down immensely, and the background sounds or shows are overstimulating to my brain. Lately I’ve been opting for an hour or two of pure silence while I’m home alone. I choose a task to undertake in complete quiet, except for the sounds coming through an open window. It has been transformational – and I’m working up to longer stretches of time. I can’t believe how productive and calm I feel. (And then when it’s television time, I can give Phoebe my undivided attention).
- Quickened/Shallow Breathing
I’m blown away by how effective essential oil therapy has been for manifesting calm and focus. I have a favourite that I put in my diffuser and within minutes I’m taking deep, measured breaths. I instantly feel better and more clear-headed.
- A Lack of Routine
Sometimes when one thing slips beyond our control, we needlessly write-off an entire day – or an entire lifestyle! I’ve recognized that facing one challenge to a healthy routine doesn’t mean I should forego the rest. Keeping up with the habits, schedules and meals that I regularly enjoy has been good for me – even when I’m cooking for one at 9pm after a very long day. In other words: Just because one thing sucks, doesn’t mean you have to take it out on your body.
- Clutter = chaos
This is no headline news. But WOW, is it true!! 😛 Creating a haven for myself that’s clean, cute and comfortable can help me to feel so much more relaxed and productive. This is why I decorate my workspaces, office and home – always! You don’t have to be a minimalist or a clean-freak for this to hold true. It’s a simple matter of editing out the extras in your surroundings. Try it: I challenge you to carefully consider what you want taking up your space, and your visual and mental attention.