The pace of our urban lifestyle is non-stop, as we try to balance our career, social lives, family, health, relationships and plans for the future. We are more overworked, overtired and over scheduled than ever before. We wonder why our anxiety seems to keep rising, yet we can’t stop adding more to our lives. I’ve been through the busy, overwhelmed cycle too and know the classic response to it – you stop eating well (no time = lots of meals on the go), you stop exercising, you procrastinate, small tasks feel insurmountable and your energy levels drop. While the best advice is to slow down and reduce your obligations, this is much easier said than done. But rest easy, I’m here to offer you some tips in the meantime for when you feel like you can’t function because you’re just too anxious to think.

Here are three lifestyle tips to help you balance out your busyness, so you can start feeling less frantic, more productive and better rested.

1. WAKE UP EARLIER
What? Ugh. I hate this advice. You probably do too. Just like the next person, I love hitting the snooze button. But, hear me out, self-care and scheduling time for yourself decreases stress, risk of chronic disease and improves your immune health. If you do your self-care routine first thing in the morning, you’ll have less chances of it getting derailed later in the day. Just an extra 20 minutes in the morning can make a difference. Even if this means lying in bed laughing, watching cute animal YouTube videos, so be it. My fave? Cats trying to fit into teeny boxes. (If you haven’t seen Maru, you’re missing out. He’s my favourite mood booster). I also like this “how to wake up earlier” guide (the key: slow increments, I’m all about gradual change).

2. STOCK UP
You don’t need to devote hours to keeping a well-stocked kitchen. Really, you don’t. Buy some key items to always keep on hand and you’re set. For example, keep a jar of nutrient rich raw nuts and seeds to add to your oatmeal, smoothies and salads (pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, hemp hearts and chia seeds are great options); wash and chop up a few of your favourite greens all at once and keep them in a container to throw into omelettes, stirfrys, chilis, soups, and so on; keep dried quinoa (12 minutes to cook), and canned, organic black beans and chickpeas on hand to boost the protein content of your meals.

3. DROP YOUR “ALL OR NOTHING” HABIT
When we get busy, it’s easy to start thinking in an “all-or-nothing” way.  Psychologists describe this troublesome mindset as thinking in terms of extremes: something either is or isn’t. Unfortunately, many of us fall into this trap of categorizing our  fitness and nutrition choices as either good/bad or healthy/unhealthy. For a lot of us, this ends up sounding something like this: “I ate pizza for lunch. That was so bad. I guess I’ll give up on my healthy eating plan… I can’t do it.” Studies have shown that this rigid way of categorizing your choices may lead to weight gain, overeating and feelings of guilt and anxiety. Just because you ate that one piece of pizza doesn’t mean your future nutritious meals are any less beneficial. I challenge you this week to stop labelling your habits and food choices as good or bad. Do your best, then move on. Don’t expect perfection. For some helpful techniques to get you away from “all-or-nothing” thinking, check out my favourite habits expert, James Clear, he has lots to say on what to do when you do miss your run, or eat a little too much pizza.

And remember, if you’re getting up every day and making an effort to be good to yourself and those around you, you’re already moving in the right direction!

Photo by: @jdmorden
Footnotes
1. Robert Adams, “Improving Health Outcomes With Better Patient Understanding And Education,” Risk Management Health Policy (2010)
2. Michael Murray And Joseph Pizzorno, The Encyclopedia Of Natural Medicine (Atria Books, 2012), 264.
3. Aikaterini Palascha, Ellen Van Kleef And Hans Van Trijp, “How Does Thinking In Black And White Terms Relate To Eating Behaviour And Weight Regain,” Journal Of Health Psychology (2015).