Staying sane on busy days

Good morning. How are you doing today?

breakfast - greek yogurt, quinoa, banana, strawberries, pb

So yesterday was a long day. I have decided that  Wednesdays are definitely the toughest day of the week for me to get through. Between  8 hours of work + 90 minutes of Bio lecture + 2 (or more) hours of Bio lab, I always feel exhausted by the end of the day. While I usually try to make the best of it and not complain (I know we all have busy days), I have found that some weeks/days are just easier than others. Yesterday was one of the more rough days.

Anyway, instead of going over why I was it was hard day or why I didn’t have as much energy, etc., I’d rather move forward and discuss strategy. I have realized that I employ a few tactics every week to keep my spirits up. Since I am not one to dwell on a negative mood for long and am a  firm believer that the little things in life are what make you the happiest, I guess it comes to no surprise that I’d try to make the most of my more stressful days. Why be happy tomorrow or “when I have accomplished _____” when you can be happy right now (even at times when you are learning about entropy and enzymes)? Life if happening everyday so why not enjoy it (even if it’s the little moments….)?

So on that note, I thought I’d share some things that I do to attempt to stay positive/remain optimistic when days are long or stressful or feel never-ending  (and then maybe you can share some of your strategies? I’m always looking for new tips…):

I pack/plan to eat “fun food” and/or make eating an “event”

This probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but food makes me really happy. I love looking forward to a meal and love to plan fun (and healthy(!)) meals for myself on days when I am stressed or busy or blah. A good meal just lifts my spirits (and keeps me well fueled!). I legitimately get excited to dig into my packed dinners before class on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Even on super busy days when I rely on granola bars and trail mix to keep my energy up, I try to take the time to just slow down and enjoy them. Food doesn’t need to be fancy to be special. Meals (for me at least) not only serve as good “fuel” but always create a time/space where I can tell myself to just STOP and enjoy the moment. I love how food has the power to create such a space. You have to eat at least 3 times a day, so why not use the time to enjoy yourself?

I believe that food should always be “fun” and should never be an afterthought. It’s important! Even a snack of a granola bar or a dinner of a pb&j can be exciting if you focus on it.

Use my commute time as “me” time

It can be really hard to travel to school from work and come home at the end of the day feeling like I haven’t stopped moving for 14+ hours. I am the type of person that needs time to myself to just relax. I usually do this by running or at night by just unwinding, but my current schedule doesn’t allow as much time for this (I need to sleep too!).

I have found that my car ride to and from school is a great time for me to unwind and just relax. My activities range from belting out songs (I am really liking Kelly Clarkson’s new song for this… is that embarrassing?) to pondering life, to completely zoning out (while watching the road, of course). Whatever the activity though, I realize that these rides are definitely beneficial to let me just be.

Repeat positive mantras and try to learn fun facts

When all else fails and I feel super exhausted or would rather do anything than go to class or measure 2 mL of water into 15 different beakers during lab, I either repeat positive mantras in my head or try to extract fun facts from class to keep myself motivated. Basic biology can be much more fun when you are trying to learn something new and exciting at every moment.

I find myself doing this at work too when things are especially slow or stressful. It’s never to late to learn something new (I got to learn all about assessment of nonverbal children with autism yesterday….). I had a professor once that always said, “It’s not for school but for life we learn…” so maybe that’s where I learned this little tactic?

My go-to mantras:

  • “This will be worth it….. This will be worth it”
  • “You can do this. You are smart. You are going to be someone someday”
  • If you focus on the moment/be present… time will go faster (and you actually may gain something from this)… which is usually always true

Fun Facts:

  • Penicillin was discovered by accident
  • It is NOT fun to make “onion water” (not a fun fact but is the truth)….yesterday was more of a positive mantra day than a learn fun facts kind of day

So these are just a few things that I try to keep in mind when stressed/busy.  Even when days are hard and life is overwhelming, I like to think there is something I can do to change it (or at least make it a bit more enjoyable).

How do you stay sane when life is crazy? Do you have any suggestions/tips? I’d love to hear some!

Have a great day everyone!

Best thing I packed this week: week 2 (February 10, 2012)

Happy Friday! Anyone doing anything exciting this weekend?

So the time has come again for “The best thing I packed this week” (here is week 1 in case you missed it)!

Best lunch: Roasted brussel sprout, sweet potato and black bean salad (with BBQ hummus dressing)

I can’t take credit for this delicious combination (my sister made it for me), but it was definitely the best thing I ate for lunch this week. Sami (my twin sister who is a busy grad student and lover of healthy packed lunches as well) and I tend to help each other out during the week and make each others lunches on certain days (she usually packs my lunch for Thursday, since I don’t get home until 9:30ish, and I tend to help her out Tuesdays or Fridays). It definitely makes my life a little easier, and I appreciate her SO much for helping me out. Thanks Sam!

This salad contained so many delicious things, I didn’t want it to end. My favorite salads tend be (1) ones with a lot of various ingredients to pick at and taste, or (2) ones that contain different or “less typical” ingredients than the standard salad (think carrot, cucumber, tomato, etc.), This salad definitely fell into the second category with the addition of brussel sprouts and sweet potatoes. I am a BIG fan of both (I love roasted brussel sprouts!), and while I typically eat these types of veggies for dinner, it was fun to enjoy them in the middle of the day. 

 I ate around the spinach first (I usually always save the best parts for last in salads) and left all the brussel sprouts, beans and sweet potatoes for last. This salad contained:

  • spinach
  • sweet potato cubes
  • roasted brussel sprouts
  • black beans
  • quinoa

Dressing: Homemade BBQ dressing made with:

  • BBQ sauce (approx 1 tbsp)… I never really measure these things
  • apple cider vinegar (approx 1-2 tsp)
  • a drop or two of water – to thin it out

I love making my own dressings, since I typically don’t tend like many bottled options, and I like to be in control of how much of certain ingredients I use.  Sami is actually a pretty talented dressing maker and is always whipping up some delicious combinations. My favorites of hers include:

  • BBQ (and BBQ Hummus)
  • Honey Balsamic 
  • Honey Mustard-esque dressing

Making your own dressing is really easy, and I find that they taste just as good (if not better!) than many bottled kinds (I HATE that artificial taste in certain types of dressing). Since a dressing can make or break a salad, they are definitely an important feature of my daily meals. What are your favorite kinds of dressing?

Other notable meals of the week….

kale, goat cheese, kidney bean and veggie "pasta" salad

olive tapenade, hummus and kale on whole wheat

So that concludes the “Best thing I packed this week.” I hope you have a great Friday/weekend!

What was the best thing you packed this week?