Habits of Healthy People: Stick with It, Especially When Life Gets Stressful

By , SparkPeople Blogger
This last month has been perhaps one of the busiest and most fun of my life. Since late August, I've traveled to Detroit to help my grandparents move, spent a long weekend in Chicago, signed a lease for a new apartment with my boyfriend, packed up and cleaned our old place, moved and unpacked. We moved the same day as the Spark Your Life Convention, which meant I missed most of the heavy lifting. The next day, I ran my first 5K with several SparkPeople, then I ran another one last weekend. Now I'm in Vancouver on a quick business trip.

Despite all that activity--and most of it was fun and exciting--I stuck with my healthy habits. I tend to get stressed out rather easily, but I survived with only one minor meltdown. I very easily could have relied on takeout, pulled all-nighters and skipped workouts to free up more time for everything else I had to do, but I knew that in the long run, it wouldn't be a good choice. Looking back, I realized that a few simple steps saved me from letting stress get the best of me. Here's how I stuck with it when the going got tough.

Schedule your workouts, but be flexible. I only missed three days of exercise in September. Whew. (I have already taken two rest days in October!)

When life really started to get hectic in mid-September, I planned my schedule for the rest of the month. Exercise is more than just a way to maintain my weight and keep my clothes from getting too tight. Two of my primary motivators for working out are stress relief and keeping my mood on an even keel. When I miss more than a day of working out, I get cranky. So when times were tough last month, I shook up my routine a bit. I didn't have time for my thrice-weekly 75-minute yoga classes, but I had time for a 20-minute yoga session at home a few nights a week. I wasn't able to make it to Spinning class on Tuesdays and Thursdays as I usually do, but I could get up 30 minutes early and run three miles before work.

One shopping trip for healthy fast foods can prevent disaster later. I loaded up on apples, hummus, salsa, almond butter, frozen broccoli, eggs and whole-grain bread so that I could eat meals even when I was short on time. I might not have cooked a fancy dinner most nights last month, but heating up a bag of frozen broccoli, cooking up a couple of eggs and toasting some multigrain bread meant I had something substantial and healthy to fill my belly on nights when I didn't get home until late. Hummus sandwiches, apples with almond butter and hard-boiled eggs kept me fueled throughout the day.

Getting a good night's sleep is more important than clearing out your to-do list. Though my to-do list should have kept me up until the wee hours most nights, I climbed into bed by midnight so I'd be ready for my 7 a.m. alarm. When you short yourself on sleep, your motivation often suffers. Losing sleep can adversely affect your weight-loss or maintenance efforts, and it can trigger cravings and overeating. Your concentration and focus are impaired when you lose sleep, so chances are your work will be better after a full seven or eight hours.

When life gets tough, remember:

"Don't let your mind bully your body into believing it must carry the burden of its worries."
--Astrid Alauda

These tips aren't really new or ground-breaking, but they're tried and true. I hope that the next time life gets busy, these simple steps can help you slow down and not veer off the course of your healthy journey.

How do you stay focused when life gets tough? Are you more likely to sacrifice sleep, healthy eating, or exercise? What's your best stress-relieving tip?

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my eating still gets a hit, but the exercise is now my savior. the walking is a blessing and i will go to the beach and walk a few miles. the views are awsome and it sure puts my problems in perspective. Report
I notice that if I don't workout in the am, I am much more stressed at work. Report
One shopping trip for healthy fast foods can prevent disaster later. I tend to go to the grocery store when I am stressed. Report
What's unbelievable is that we all have crazy busy lives and if we don't take care of ourselves we will burn out our bodies and minds. Thanks for helping us find that we can do things a little better if we know we must. Report
My stress relieving tip is exercise, it really works for me and I feel so much better afterwards. Report
Thanks for your blog! At a time when I would have hoped I could start to travel with my DH and renovate our home, I find myself stressed out due to work, parent with Alzheimers, and dealing with other family members who are having problems.
I have started classes in yoga and Tai Chi, once/week and hope to find DVDs to allow me to continue at home when the classes end in 3 wks.
i do well with eating during the day because I pack my breakfast and lunch. Dinner usually starts out well, but I also prepare meals for others and keep snacks and such around the house which I shouldn't eat, but will and then feel bad about it.
Right now it is a constant struggle and I am trying to find time for me where I don't feel stressed or bad. Keep some positive thoughts for me.
If I do not exercise in the morning, my stress level skyrockets. Thanks for the suggestions! Report
Other than a half gallon of ice cream,...my favorite stress reliever is logging in and tracking my food!...Easy and insightful! Report
Sleep,physical activity and proper diet are the first to be sacrificed on a stressful day. The remedy for me is to start the day a wee bit early so as to catch up with some physical activity. Food wise, it has to be taken as it comes. Report
When I am stressed or pressed for time the first thing to go is sleep. I will stay up at all hours just to get things done. I will hardly EVER sacrifice exercising or healthy eating anymore though. I really "need" those things to keep my head on straight!! Report
THANK YOU!! You have reinforced to me how important regular exercise is along with all of the important aspects that support and suffice it. Thanks again for helping put me back on track. Report
Awesome advice and I cannot agree more about recommending enough sleep. thanks Report
I have made working out a committment, it is on my calendar, but like you mentioned - life and weather (I workout outdoors) happen. This past weekend, I had rain in the morning - had to wait around for furniture delivery, then it rained again and by the time it stopped - I was too exhausted to go for a run (had a garage sale the day before - lots of work and I was pooped). I was surprised by what I did the next morning - I got up and got that run in.... I could tell I needed it, and I was motivated to get that workout in.

I do my own version of power cooking on the weekends so I have lots of healthy options ready to go since I workout after work and don't get home until 7pm - quick and easy is key for me. I cook several chicken breasts, recently have been making a batch of turkey meatballs, sometimes turkey burgers - they warm up wonderfully. I also prepare several salads - individually packaged - my favorite is 100g of Roma Tomatoes, 100g of chopped cucumber and 30g of red onion with 2 tbsp of kraft free zesty italian dressing. This is a good sized, fresh and satisfying salad for a total of about 65 calories. The longer it sits in the fridge the more the veggies marinate - it's great.

Doing these things has made staying on track so much easier... and I have noticed that working out has seriously helped me find a work/life balance and reduced my overall stress level. That in and of itself is worth it!!! Report
Thanks for the food suggestions. Not a take out, drive through person, but I still grab easy non-nutritious food rather than making better choices. Setting goals is an area that I need to work on. I keep saying I am going to workout after work, but never get there. Report
Thank you for the reminders. When the stress hits the fan, it can be so easy to skip the things that will really help in dealing with the stress! Report
What a great blog! Its true, a lot of these things are obvious. But I don't think hearing them ever gets old or less useful!! I saved this in my favorites and plan to read it ALL THE TIME :) Sometimes I get so busy I can barely think, these are great reminders that something is better than nothing and to do your best with what you've got! Report
That was fantastic. And VERY motivating. When I start to get lazy, I'm coming right back here to re-read this! Report
I think for most people these sorts of issues are emotional and they need to find solutions to the feelings to make it work. For myself I rely on logic. I'm not saying this is a better way to be, but its just a fact about who I am.

So for myself I simply have to logically realize that focusing on health doesn't take time away from "what I should be doing" but ultimately gives me more life and energy to do those things. Staying conscious of the decisions I am making and staying focused are my solutions and my struggles. Report
Wow, this is really helpful! I'm going through some pretty chaotic times now, and already today I had to skip a workout - not good. I'm moving in with my boyfriend, working two part-time jobs, am a full time student. There's a lot going on, and somehow I also drive my nephew to daycare twice a week (this will be stopping once I move in w/ the bf) This was a perfectly timed as today was the first day I said -oof no time for workout. I WILL workout tonight after class, there IS time if I make it! Report
A pertinent quote from The New Yorker:

“Picture a four-burner stove. One burner represents your family, one is your friends, the third is your health, and the fourth is your work. To be successful, you have to turn off one of your burners. To be really successful, you have to cut off two.”

I think you all can figure out which of the burners NOT to turn off!

Thanks I needed this Report
I find exercising and nice, long hot baths are my fav. Report
PRAYER! Report
Thank you for your story. Yes you can find 10 min. here and there to exercise, you dont have to do an hour at one time. It is not that hard to come up with somthing healthy, exspecialy if you dont bring junk food in your house. Report
I had it out with one of my long term clients this morning. She called to say she had a little cold and wanted to stay home and rest. She's going to Vegas for her bachelorette this weekend and getting married in 2 weeks. I know she will not be doing any exercising in Vegas and I'm sure the eating will not be stellar..and she'd rather rest than do SOME exercise with her wedding coming up? I really don't get that thinking. That is not the kind of behaviour of healthy people...my client knows how many workouts I've missed in the past 3 years due to illness..NONE. Report
I guess healthier eating, and sleep are first to go. I try to balance it all. When I am stressed, and feeling frustrated , I really need to workout. It keeps me on an even keel, and is a much needed outlet. I get really frustrated if I can't workout, but I am learning to adapt to fitting Ina workout even if it's a quick one. And I am really trying to consistently eat healthier , even in a pinch. Keep up the good work! Report
what is funny is that I just posted a blog about not giving up yesterday and reasons that I keep doing what I'm doing. Coincedence Daily Spark, LOL!!! I'm going to have to subscribe to Dailyspark cause I love every article you guys are awesome Report
I totally agree with you regarding the benefits of a good night's rest, choosing healthy nutritious food, and getting regular exercise. They may not be new ideas but they definitely work for me. I also try to set aside some "me time" everyday - even if it's just a few minutes - time to allow myself to relax, meditate, and put things in perspective. Report
This is so true! I think practicing most of these things is what has kept me maintaining my weight for almost a year now. I had a moment yesterday when I thought that maybe I should skip spin class to stay late at work, but I knew that the report would still be there in the morning and I could finish it then. I don't make excuses to myself to miss workouts. Another thing I have started to do is when I am craving a certain type of restaurant food, maybe Thai or Indian, I find a recipe and make it myself at home - to me it is just as good as what I would get from the restaurant, and more importantly I know exactly what is in it and it's cheaper to boot! Report
You picked a beautiful time to come to Vancouver! I hope you can squeeze in a jog around the Sea Wall in Stanley Park or perhaps try our famous "Grouse Grind" I haven't done it! I prefer to hike when I hike, & that's not really a hike, it's a status symbol, but out-of-towners gotta try it - I hope that didn't sound too hypocritical... LOL).

Thanks for the reminder about regular w'outs. I have been lacking on those since I really have no routine anymore. I need to create a routine.

As for stress, I tend to try to eat it away, which is silly b/c that only creates MORE stress!

Enjoy your visit to Vancouver!! Report
Thanks for validating something I've long felt to be true but usually have a hard time implementing. Exercise is usually the first to go, followed by healthy eating habits. I'm now trying to get in at least 30 minutes of yoga in the morning so that if life DOES get in the way in the evening it doesn't derail or cause me as much stress as it used to. Report
I try meditation or a few games of FreeCell Solitaire on my computer Report