Stress! The word alone can make you feel stressed out. If you’re among those feeling like you have too much stress and not enough time to deal with it, you’re definitely not alone. For most of us, stress is a fact of life. Unfortunately, research reveals that it's also a fact of fat. Even if you usually eat well and exercise, chronic high stress can prevent you from losing weight or even add pounds.
When we’re stressed there’s a lot that goes on inside our bodies, and it’s a lot more than what meets the eye. Stress causes us to go into a mode to protect ourselves. hormones are released, heart rate increases, blood pressure goes up, the process of digestion slows, there are other lingering effects such as stress hormones that continue to linger and wreak havoc on sleep, weight, our immune system and so much more.
Cortisol is a steroid hormone that our bodies produce in response to stress and also to low blood sugar levels; cortisol works to return our bodies to a place of “normalcy” after a stressful experience. Besides stress, there are also other things that can elevate cortisol levels; these include not getting enough sleep, alcohol and caffeine.
- Reduced testosterone levels: Stress and low testosterone share many symptoms and have been linked to the stress hormone cortisol. There is evidence that high levels of cortisol depressed testosterone levels in men.
- Elevated blood sugar levels: This contributes to fat storage in the abdominal area.
- Suppressed immune system: This means those with elevated stress levels and therefore stress hormones may get sick more often.
- Decreased bone formation: Although this too may happen over a much longer time, cortisol may affect how well our bodies are able to build strong bones.
- Affected memory: Some research suggests that over time (likely longer, more chronic situation) may have an effect on our ability to recall memories and events.
Here are some ways that you that you can reduce stress:
1) Breath and Meditate - Meditation comes in many forms, but whichever you choose to go with, it will likely help reduce stress. Start in a comfortable position and focus on clearing your mind. If your mind begins wandering, find something to focus on, like your breathing, a mantra, or an object in front of you. Check out these other forms of meditation to figure out which one best fits your personality and schedule.
2) Yoga, Stretching or Massage - Yoga is a method of meditation that helps relax the muscles and clear the mind. Regular yoga sessions, stretching and massages can improve flexibility, reduce pain, stiffness, lower blood pressure and improve overall health. It doesn’t have to take a huge commitment, time or money, start with 15-30 minute sessions.
3) Eat Healthier - Most people under stress tend to become emotional eaters, but digging into junk food isn’t going to help. Foods like alcohol, candy, and those high in sodium and fat are actually very bad for reducing stress. Instead, opt for a healthy diet high in whole foods, and when you have to indulge, indulge in a sweet fruity snack. Fish–with their omega-3 fatty acids–are also good for reducing the symptoms of stress.
4) Put Your Phone Down - Television, radio, Internet, or social networking is the sixth top cause of stress in the U.S. Given that your smartphone can deliver all of these at once. It’s probably best to stay away from it when you’re trying to reduce stress. Staying away from your smartphone for a while gives you time to focus on yourself, clear your mind, and work through your stress without distractions.
5) Get More Rest - A common cause of stress is lack of sleep. Furthermore, stress can make it difficult to sleep. It’s an awfully vicious cycle. If you’ve only got a few minutes, lay down and set an alarm to allow yourself a few minutes of rest. At night, try to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep to reduce your day-to-day stress.
6) Exercising Body and Mind - Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins—chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers—and also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress. Meditation, acupuncture, massage therapy, even breathing deeply can cause your body to produce endorphins.
The time and effort you spend relaxing and learning new stress management skills is always well spent because of the emotional and physical health benefits it brings. By knowing yourself well enough to tell when you’re under stress, you can take action as soon as possible.