There are those times in everyone’s life when you have too much on your plate and it gets overwhelming and chaotic. You’re burning the candle at both ends and you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel through everything that has piled on top of you. At those times, you have to take a step back, breathe deeply, and evaluate the situation. Are there obligations that aren’t helping you to move forward that can be eliminated? Are there things you can do now to make your life easier tomorrow or a week from now? Are there things you’re doing in reaction to the stress that are making it worse?
I was in such a situation recently. Fall classes started at the end of August and I am taking a full coarse load. Around that same time, I took on a part-time job to supplement savings and financial aid. I was also still attempting to train for a marathon and maintain relationships with the people who are important to me, including my boyfriend. It was just too much and, as a result, I was eating poorly (skipping breakfast because I woke up late and just ran out the door, or having pizza for dinner because I was too tired to cook), I had no time to work out, and I was irritable because I was exhausted and I was staring down a mountain of school work I still had to get to. Something had to give.
After a lot of thought, I knew the first thing that had to go was the marathon. I was less than 2 months away from running 26.2 miles and I could barely squeeze in one or two runs a week, and my body was sluggish on every single one of those runs. I tried to force it for a few weeks, but the realization that continuing down that path would most likely result in injury made the ultimate decision a no-brainer. So, I deferred and will now be running the Marine Corps Marathon in 2017. I’m happy with that decision.
After I pulled the plug on the marathon for this year, I was still overburdened and stressed beyond belief. The job. Let me tell you about the job. It didn’t pay much and I realized quickly that it was very demanding both physically and emotionally. The schedule was never set in stone and I could either be cut from or added to a shift within just a day, or even a few hours, of the shift. It made it impossible to plan anything at all. My role was to assist with cooking classes, which I thought would be good experience for my future in food and nutrition, however I spent most of my time washing dishes. At the end of every shift, my feet hurt like crazy and sometimes I would have to work back-to-back shifts with no break. It was causing the plantar fasciitis in my left foot to worsen and I started to get sharp lower back pain. I laughed that I could run marathons but couldn’t stand for hours at a time without wanting to cut my feet off and roll up into fetal position, but I swear it was harder on my body than running! I was so exhausted and cranky every time I left that place. The final straw was when they scheduled me for 14 consecutive days. I had to get out of there, so I gave them 2 weeks notice and made my exit as swiftly as I could.
Now, I’m back to trying to find my new normal. I’ve taken a volunteer position with a non-profit helping out with their corporate wellness program. I am loving the work I’m doing and it will go a long way toward building my resume in nutrition. I still need to find something else part-time that pays, but I am not going to stress myself out over it. Right now I’m just enjoying being able to focus on school and cooking with my boyfriend again. We didn’t do much of that at all during my craziness, and it’s something we love doing together and it helps us to eat healthy. The first things we made were a couple of things we could keep on hand and just grab to take with us when we are in a rush. We made egg muffins that we keep in the freezer for a grab-microwave-and-go breakfast. They are so easy – just put a bunch of veggies and whatever other fillings you like into a muffin tin, pour whisked eggs in to fill, then bake on 375* until the eggs are cooked through (about 20 minutes). We chose to fill them with spinach, bell peppers, Trader Joe’s chicken jalapeno sausage, onions, and cheddar cheese. Yum! The other thing we made was my favorite trail mix. Also really simple to make and the cinnamon and cranberries give it a bit of a Fall flavor (but, let’s be honest, I devour this year-round), so I thought it appropriate to share now. Note that I am not giving measurements for some of the ingredients because everyone likes different proportions of the various items in a trail mix, so it’s really up to you. Enjoy!
Honey Cinnamon Trail Mix
2 cans of unsalted mixed nuts
1/2 cup of dry oats
2 tbsp of chia seeds
flax or sunflower seeds
shredded coconut (optional)
honey – around 1/2 cup
dried cranberries (or whatever dried fruit you prefer)
dark chocolate M&Ms
In a bowl, combine nuts, seeds, oats and coconut. Stir in honey until it thinly coats everything, then add as much cinnamon as you’d like and stir well. I’d say I probably end up using around a tablespoon or two of cinnamon. Spread your mixture on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 375* until just starting to brown – around 10-15 minutes. Let cool thoroughly, then break up clumps and mix in cranberries and M&Ms. This makes a big bowl of trail mix you can portion out into sandwich bags. It won’t last long, though.