Today sucks. Nothing particularly frustrating, bad, or tragic happened, it’s just one of those days where I feel pretty bad. I feel incompetent, depressed, and alone. Nothing specifically brought on these feelings, which is the most frustrating part. On days like today I curse having an open office. I feel exposed and vulnerable. I feel like people can see that I’m not happy or they’re checking to make sure I’m working on some stupid document that no one will ever read. I’m sure neither are true, but that’s how it feels.
I think the sad truth is that no matter what I eat or do, I will always have these feelings. Everyone feels down from time to time and I honor that. I felt so happy and confident last week that I unrealistically thought it would last forever. My energy dipped and I haven’t been sleeping well again, but that’s not because of the Whole30. I feel fairly certain that my energy and sleep would be a lot worse without the Whole30 right now because there’s a deeper, darker culprit than sugar withdrawal (which is thankfully over); stress.
I am stressed out of my mind at work. I bit off way more than I can chew and it looks like I won’t be getting the help (i.e., a junior writer) for much longer than I had anticipated. Stress is so incredibly powerful, it amazes me how it quickly knocks down all the barriers I put up to protect myself. I looked at eating well, exercise, and sleep as a kind of ‘Berlin Wall’ that protects what I think of as my ‘self’. This ‘self’ is made up of my feelings, emotions, and thoughts; it’s essentially who I am. ‘Self’ gets beat up a lot by internal factors (like changes in my brain chemistry and hormones) and external factors, so I try to keep it safe from the inside out. Eating good foods actually has a tremendous effect on how I feel physically and mentally; that I can say with full confidence and back it up with scientific evidence. Exercise, sleep, being around people I love, reading good books, writing, and drawing are all things that make ‘self’ beam. Doing these things, especially eating well, exercise, and sleep build a protective wall around ‘self’.
I need this wall because my particular ‘self’ (we all have one), is extremely vulnerable since it has outside forces and inside forces (stupid brain chemistry) attacking it. Stress tries to break down the wall. When I feel extremely stressed, it feel like there’s a breach in the wall. Stress oozes in like tar and attacks ‘self’. Suddenly things like drawing, exercise, and even being around loved ones sound horrible. Stress poisons the ‘self’.
But order can be restored. I’ve realized that bingeing on candy or booze to kill the stress actually kills the ‘self’. Eating an apple instead of a candy bar certainly doesn’t give the same relief…at least not immediately. But in the long term, skipping the sugar and having a cup of green tea or going for a quick walk becomes and even better relief. Sugar and alcohol screw up the positive thoughts that can rejuvenate the ‘self’. Instead of thinking, “Stress is right, I can’t do all of these projects”, the ‘self’ can think, “F*ck off stress – I can do these things, not just all at once. I’ll find another way.”
Making healthy decisions is not bullsh*t; that’s the point of this post. Everyone has a ‘self’ that needs a wall to protect is from stress, trauma, and other unpleasant emotions and experiences. Some people try to build this wall with alcohol, drugs, sex, and bad foods, but that’s like trying to build a bridge with match sticks; you need a solid base if it’s going to last.
You don’t have to do a Whole30, but look at what you put into your body – do you think it will build a strong wall?