Why do I feel so sh*#%y?
First off, does the absence of the "itt" in shitty make the title more appropriate?
I thought so.
One of the things that I loved most about college was the ongoing social energy on and off campus. For the majority of college, I was a social butterfly who didn't want to miss out on a night out to the bars, a dinner downtown, a Friday night bartending shift or a stack of blueberry pancakes. In fact, I didn't miss out. I did it all!
Unfortunately, I noticed that when I was hungover, anxiety increased. When I was sleep deprived, anxiety and depressive symptoms increased. When I didn't eat well, I felt sluggish and unmotivated. There truly were too many days where I was experiencing the consequences from all three, and you probably know how bad this feels.
I also went through a period of time my sophomore year of college when my face was comically swollen for an entire semester from all of the college-y things that I was consuming (yikes).
I justified my partying, social over-exertion and unhealthy eating habits by waking up each morning and promising myself to a healthier day with a sweaty workout, veggie-filled meals, and a better following night's rest. Some days, this worked, and I would find myself back in my feel-good groove after 2 days or so. Other days, I sort of lost motivation and progressed into what ended up as a 4 or 5 day bender (this was usually Wednesday nights, because I bartended Thursday nights from 9pm-2am, sometimes worked the Friday day shift and then went out Friday night, and either bartended again on Saturday night or participated in social events). I found that by Sunday morning, I was so glad to be looking forward to the week ahead of me because I knew that truly Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday could be days of rest and wellness. However, I couldn't truly feel rested or well because ultimately 3 days is not going to put your body in a consistent state of wellness. It takes more than that.
When you feel shitty, you'll practically do anything to pull yourself out of the state that you're in. Thankfully, there are elements that you can easily pinpoint sometimes as reasons to why you're not feeling completely rested, still sore from your workout last week, or feeling anxious or depressed. Mainly, it's sleep, food and water. Three God-given elements that we take for granted but that our bodies need adequate support from. A healthy well-being is achieved by more than just these three elements, but it's a start.
Sleep is important for our daily functioning and mental and physical health. The way you feel when you're awake is in part due to how well you've been sleeping. Have you ever noticed yourself more susceptible to colds and allergies, or less motivated or concentrated? This is because sleep helps your brain and immune system work properly. When you're body and mind are well rested, you are better able to fight off illness and infections, pay attention, learn new things, make decisions, solve problems and be creative.
Sleep also helps regulate the symptoms of hunger. When you don't get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin (hunger hormone) increases, and your level of leptin (satiated hormone) goes down. This makes you feel hungrier than when you're well rested because your body is working harder to make up for the lack of sleep (energy) that you are giving it. Sleep deficiency also results in a higher than normal blood sugar--which I talk about in 'My Go-To Protein Bars' post.
Mood, anxiety and depression are also impacted by sleep, including friendliness, feelings of sympathy, positivity and general vitality.
For most adults, 7-8 hours of sleep per night is ideal. This doesn't ring true for all adults, though. I find myself needing 8-9 hours to feel fully rested. I've found that the best way to get the sleep that your body needs is to establish a more regulated sleep regimen. Today, I typically wake up and go to sleep around the same time everyday. And when I'm up later than usual, I try to schedule my sleep hours according to what time I'm climbing into bed. In college, my sleep schedule has been nowhere near perfect, but by recognizing how I feel when I don't get enough sleep, I've grown to really appreciate the 8-9 hours that my body needs every night, and I try not to mess with my rhythm.
Food, to me, is a feel-good partner, a creative outlet, and a mood-booster. Without it, I can't live whole-heartedly.
Food impacts the way we look, feel, and move. What we put in our bodies can hurt, heal, energize, strengthen, or deplete us. I used to laugh a bit to myself when I heard of foodies or my favorite influencers strictly buying organic and unrefined products; but then I experienced how natural, unrefined and non-processed foods made me feel, and now I truly have trouble reaching for ingredients or products that I would have two years ago.
When we eat junk food, or food that is highly processed, our bodies actually struggle to break the food down for energy and nutrients; and the longer food remains in the digestive tract, the less likely nutrients are to be absorbed and the more toxins and additives that enter the bloodstream.
When we eat refined carbohydrates like bagels, waffles and cereals, our body breaks the food down into glucose, which spikes insulin and leptin levels, leaving us with low blood sugar, feeling depleted and unsatisfied (see blog post 'My Go-To Protein Bars' for blood sugar information).
Eating processed foods results in the consumption of food additives, or better defined as substances that 'add' nutrients, keep a product 'fresh', or make foods more appealing. Our bodies aren't designed to process man-made additives and ingredients. I recommend reading this NYT article if you want more information about food additives and their side effects.
When we eat more of the bad stuff and less of the good, it's no wonder that we feel lethargic, unsatisfied, depressed or moody. Food helps with our brain structure, and by eating meals rich in naturally occurring vitamins, minerals and nutrients, our body finds a natural balance of existence. As a result, we feel genuinely good.
So what is defined as good? (All ideally organic) whole grains, saturated and monosaturated fats (olives and olive oils, coconuts and coconut oils, avocados, raw nuts), locally grown sprouts and vegetables, fermented vegetables (kimchi, sauerkraut), and high-quality proteins (grass-fed, local, organically-raised).
I know how expensive shopping organic, local and all-natural is, and as a college student it has been really hard to do so. The reason why shopping organic is so important is because organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. By avoiding these toxins that our bodies are not meant to ingest, we can further our wellbeing and maintain a more consistent state of feeling good.
What I've found helpful for financial stability is only shopping for the ingredients that I know need to be organic in order for me to avoid toxins and additives. According to The Ultimate Paleo Guide and WomanCode, these foods include:
- Peaches and Nectarines
- All lettuces
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Kale and Collards
Again, buying all organic is ideal, and hopefully there comes a time when it will be the norm! If you do your research, you'll find that it's easier to go to the grocery store and save money when you know what products you absolutely should buy organic and what products you don't always need to.
Our bodies use water to regulate our body temperature, boost our elimination system, maintain physical wellness and aid in other bodily functions.
When our mouths get dry because of dehydration, imagine what's going on inside of our body. What appears on the outside is a result of what's going on on the inside. Water helps our body maintain optimal level of moisture in our blood, bones, joints, and brain. Water also protects our spinal cord and serves as a lubricant for joints.
When it comes to our elimination system, water helps remove toxins and waste from our bodies. Water aids the liver and kidneys in flushing out waste, and it also helps with digestion; and with healthy digestion, our bodies can better absorb nutrients.
When we don't drink enough water, we see side effects like weakness and dizziness, confusion and sluggishness, dry mouth, eyes and nose, and even an inability to sweat during a workout.
Most adults are encouraged to drink their body weight / 2 in ounces daily. Of course, if you are getting hard workouts in every day, or find yourself in a dryer climate, your water intake should increase according to those elements.
We all have off days, and as women, our hormonal changes throughout the month affect our mental, physical and emotional states pretty heavily sometimes (more on this later). Ultimately, if you're feeling poorly or unlike your normal self, the factors of water, food and hydration play a key role in your life; and the best thing that we can do for ourselves is honor our bodies with nutrition, hydration, exercise, solid friendships and self-awareness practices. Life and the human body are not perfect, but by taking care of ourselves we can experience optimal wellness, which leads to both feeling and being awesome.