In Sickness and In Stress

I’ve typically taken no more than 3 courses each semester since I began my journey in “higher education.” My family lives paycheck to paycheck and owning my own car brings its own responsibilities so I’ve wanted to work in order to be less of a burden on my parents.

Fall 2016 was not a regular semester for me though; I transitioned to a 4-year university, already seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Before the semester rolled upon us, my family and I decided I would focus all of my energy on my school work for this period of time.

Taking on 5 courses at a time has poked and prodded at my time management skills and my ability to deal with stress. Larger institutions love basing entire course outcomes on 2 massive exams and a single, absurdly lengthy research report — had a bad day on exam one? Hah, too bad. Try to get a perfect score on the next exam or else no A for the course. Thanks, great way of measuring my capability of rendering the information. Then again, I’m quite an overachiever in academia so that also plays a role.

Like many humans, I am keen to the idea of having control.

Control makes me feel safe.

Of course, that makes me a great planner but that also causes my stress levels to skyrocket because stress = you’re losing control, Alejandra.

Close your eyes — inhala, exhala, inhala, exhala.

Now let go…

I choose my battles.

Each day comes with new decisions, each morning I decide how I want my tasks to move forward.

What will I accomplish today? What are my priorities?

These last couple of weeks have been overwhelming both mentally and physically which is why I decided that in order to do the best work possible, I would surrender control over areas that typically require extra effort on my part and I would let my body know we were in for a tough ride, so I chose to be gentle to it.

My go-to exercises are heavily based on high intensity interval training and crossfit style workouts which are known to cause high levels of stress when performed during an already high state of stress. For the longest time I thought that if I wasn’t sweating and kicking my own butt in the gym, I wasn’t doing enough but this week, I chose to take a break from the gym altogether and focused on moving my body at home in between study sessions, classes, etc. (Secret: My lectures are usually 3 hours long so I take a “bathroom break” after an hour of lecture and do squats in the stall! I know, I’m a total nerd). I also try to “sit actively” which just means I take advantage of the fact that I’m sitting and I try to stretch out my hip flexors by sitting “criss cross applesauce” during class and changing up my seating when I’m working at home. I take the stairs whenever possible and fit in some jump squats while my food is heating up. Keep it simple.

In regards to food, I chose to worry less about my choices and understood it would not be a perfect week. This whole time, I was letting my body know I was on its side. You do your best, buddy. Do your thang.

I indulged in foods that I really enjoyed, which for me is fruit! I did not limit myself to the amount of mangos with lemon and apples I consumed because you know what, I already have too much to stress about — let me pamper myself. Now, this could be seen as a double-edged sword because you could say I shouldn’t use food as a means to reward myself for something but I assure you this isn’t the case.

In a non-stress state, I have goals I want to achieve for my body — leaner, stronger, which calls for more attentive tracking but I’ve come to understand that there is a time and a place for tracking.

There are moments in life when you just have to listen to your body and get things done. It’s the reality of life.

Wouldn’t we all love to live in a world where we could cook all of our meals peacefully, eat a perfectly clean diet and have an ample amount of time to exercise?

*Bubble burst* That ain’t the real world.

We do our best with that we know when we know it. We learn as we go and improve as our storage of knowledge expands, slowly learning how to manage times of stress in a way that will lead us closer to our goals.

Don’t sweat it.

Move intelligently, eat nourishing foods and grind on.

Perhaps it sounds too simple, even quite cliché but the truth of the matter is that we all struggle with simplicity.

There are moments in life that we must allow our bodies to push through the tough times while knowing we understand that it’s struggling. Many times when we are burnt out we just crank up the coffee and we punish our bodies beyond their breaking points, as if their biological limitations is their fault! 

Let your body breathe, let your body rest in times of stress.

They are on our sides, so please be gentle, please be loving to yourself.


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