Stress has become such a normal part of our everyday lives that some of us don’t even know we’re experiencing it. Some symptoms of stress include: low energy, headaches, upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea, aches, pains, and tense muscles, chest pain and rapid heartbeat, insomnia, frequent colds and infections, loss of sexual desire and/or ability. In some cases, stress can start interfering with your ability to live a normal life for an extended period, and can lead to dangerously unhealthy habits like overeating, smoking, drinking too much and/or many other bad habits people use to cope with stress.
Levels of the hormone, cortisol, rise during times of high stress. This can turn your overeating into a dangerously bad habit, because increased levels of cortisol help raise your insulin levels, which if you’ve read my blog post, 3 Natural Ways to Remove Sugar from your Diet, you know that this means when your blood sugar drops, you will crave more sugar and fatty foods. Chronic high stress can not only prevent you from losing weight, it may actually add pounds!
In order to avoid this vicious cycle, it is not only important to be mindful of whether you’re experiencing stress, but also how to reduce/manage it when you do.
Here are some ways to help you manage stress and avoid weight gain:
If you’ve read anything I’ve written, you know I am a firm believer in the brain’s feel good neurotransmitter: endorphins! Exercise affects the brain on multiple fronts. It increases heart rate, which pumps more oxygen to the brain. It also aids the bodily release of feel good hormones, all of which participate in aiding and providing a nourishing environment for the growth of brain cells. When endorphins are released in our brains, we feel a euphoric rush throughout our bodies, which provides a sense of well-being. So how does exercise help manage stress? Physical activity helps increase the production of endorphins, which in turn helps reduce feelings of stress and can help avoid weight gain.
Music is a highly under-utilized yet amazing stress reducing strategy! Studies have proven that listening to music helps release more dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical in your brain that affects your emotions, movements and your sensations of pleasure. What this means is that just listening to music that you find enjoyable will naturally lighten your mood and make whatever activity you’re engaged in much more pleasurable. Do you find yourself stressing out about mundane tasks like, washing dishes, folding laundry or any chore in general? Next time you’re strapping on the rubber gloves to go scrub the bathtub, try playing music that makes you want to shout the lyrics! You will find whatever task you’re completing almost becomes mindless, because your brain is so charged with dopamine, you’ll be more focused on the music than the task itself. This bit of extra activity can help not only reduce stress, but also help you avoid weight gain.
In today’s society, we have become the masters of multi-tasking. As soon as we wake up, we can easily be texting with a friend, while brushing our teeth, checking email and social media all at the same time. So basically, the day is being started with an inundation of information. This way of being is so common place now that people don’t realize it’s really jump starting a series of stressors as the day continues, because the brain is arising to overstimulation right away. Instead of jumping on your phone as soon as you wake up, try spending some mindful time with yourself. This is a good stress reducing strategy! Wake up and give yourself at least 20 minutes to perform your morning ritual—wash your face, brush your teeth, have your coffee, whatever your ritual may be—before reaching for your phone. And during this time, pay attention to what you’re doing. Take the time to feel your skin as your washing your face. Pay attention to the sensation of brushing your teeth as you move through each section of your mouth. Being conscious of these mindless activities can help jump start your day from a more relaxed state, which may help reduce the chances of feeling stressed throughout the day and help you avoid weight gain.
There are quite a few quotes from great philosophers that basically allude to the fact that, “Your thoughts become your reality.” Quite often our thoughts go on autopilot and we have the habit of unconsciously having thoughts that cause unnecessary stress and we don’t even realize it. This could be a life-changing stress reducing strategy! Start paying attention to your thoughts, especially in the morning. Do you wake up looking forward to the day or are your thoughts about how bad the day will be? If your first thoughts of the day are already negative, you’re most likely creating a reality of negativity and unnecessary stress. Try to consciously think the opposite of a negative thought. For example, if you wake up and your first thought is, “I hate my job” try to think of something that’s positive about your job instead. Maybe you don’t make enough money, but you enjoy your coworkers. Maybe your boss is a pain, but you make a decent salary and can enjoy life outside of work. Whatever positive spin you can come up with, just focus on that and completely avoid the negative thoughts. After a few mornings of this, you will find that your stress levels reduce significantly throughout the day, because you’ve consciously begun creating a positive reality. Less negativity can also increase your self-image, which in turn may compel you to take better care of yourself and help you avoid weight gain.
Maintaining a proper diet full of healthful, nutritious foods may be an incredible stress reducing strategy! My nutrition philosophy is based on one simple plan—maintain a steady blood sugar level throughout the day to avoid sugar highs and lows. People underestimate the effects of erratic blood sugar levels. Some symptoms are: anxiety, depression, lack of energy, inability to concentrate. All of which can add more stress. Maintain a diet full of low glycemic foods such as, fruits, lean proteins, veggies and whole grains, in order to avoid increasing your blood sugar levels, avoid weight gain and in turn help you manage your stress.
Journaling your moods can have a tremendous effect of your stress levels and can be a wonderful stress reducing strategy! Journaling serves as an escape or emotional release and helps you to shut everything else out and just focus on you. It’s one of the best ways to clear your mind and get you in touch with your thoughts and feelings. It forces you to focus on internal awareness of the present and process thoughts and emotions in the here-and-now. By writing down stressful thoughts, you are making a conscious effort to release them from your mind, which could in turn help you feel more in control of such thoughts. In addition, writing down your moods may enable you to notice how many of your thoughts are causing you unnecessary stress, which can help you manage unnecessary stress eating and which could help you avoid weight gain.
When it comes to stress and weight gain, it is so important to be self-aware. Understand that ignoring stress is not the answer! Being mindful of how you manage it can not only improve your overall well-being, it may also help you avoid much more dangerous health issues. Take the time to implement stress reducing strategies and your health will thank you for it!
Although my blog topics can be very beneficial to your overall health, they are not intended for the purpose of providing medical advice. All content is for informational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider. Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of published information on or through my website, blog, e-mails, programs and services. However, the information may inadvertently contain inaccuracies or typographical errors. Every effort has been made to present you with the most accurate, up-to-date information, but because the nature of diet, fitness and health research is constantly evolving, we cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of our content.