Sunday, February 19, 2017

STRESSED

Do you know?  I'm sure you have heard...

S-T-R-E-S-S-E-D spelled backwards is DESSERTS.


Yep, this is definitely how I became obese in the first place.  

This post is all about how stress affects weight loss efforts and three tips on how to address it.  We all have and deal with stress differently.  Sometimes stress comes in mega doses, like having a baby who won't let you sleep, struggling with relationship problems, caring for an aging parent, coping with health problems, dealing with overwhelming work demands, or being in the middle of any major life change.  How we manage the stress has a direct effect on our health and well being.  

According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress has a negative effect on most major body systems.  The hypothalamus signals the production of epinephrine and cortisol, which are commonly referred to as "stress hormones."  Too much cortisol causes all kinds of disruptions to your body, including increased hunger and spikes and dips in your blood sugar level.  

It actually becomes a vicious cycle:


This graphic is just the tip of the iceberg.  Excess cortisol causes migraines, affects your mood, and your ability to sleep, just to name a few.  Okay, so now that you know stress is bad for you, what are you supposed to do about it?

Hearing that stress is bad for you and knowing you're stressed does NOT in and of itself help.  I remember how hard it was when my kids were little.  The last thing I wanted to hear was that I needed to reduce the stress in my life.  No kidding!!  

So, what do you do about stress?  If you have small children, you can't just give them away.  If you have a super stressful job, it's probably not likely you will just give that up.  The stress doesn't go away because you wish it. There are things you can do to manage your stress and even alleviate it.

Here are a few tips.  I have TRIED all of these and there are not quick fixes.  In fact, some of them directly contradict what you WANT to do when you are stressed.

One:  Exercise

Exercise daily.  Yes, it may seem counter intuitive to add one more thing to your to do list, but it works.
  • Taking 30-60 minutes per day to focus on only you, gives you time to yourself.  Knowing you are doing something to help yourself feel / be healthier eases your stress.  
  • Exercise produces endorphins which helps you to sleep and reduces stress.  
  • Furthermore, exercise provides all kinds of other benefits, such as reducing fatigue, improving concentration and cognitive functioning.  
  • Even on a busy day, I put my headphones in and take a walk.


Two:  Sleep

You need sleep to recover.  It allows both your body and brain to function better.  Most of us who are stressed struggle with being able to sleep.  Insomnia only adds to our ability to handle the stress, so it can become a vicious cycle.

Here is what works for me:

Nap when you can.  If you have a young child, nap when they nap.  It seriously is okay!!!  You can do whatever chores need to be done at another time.  If you are sleep deprived, a nap will help you recover some of the rest you needed.  And for whatever reason, napping does not prevent me from sleeping through the night later.  I LOVE naps!

Have a regular bed time.  Go to bed consistently at the same time.  It helps.  I swear by it.

Unplug.  Put your cell phone down and leave it alone for at least an hour before going to bed.  You seriously do not need to check social media, or play Words With Friends one more time before you go to bed.  My son told me this week that the blue light from my cell phone actually disturbs your sleep.  I checked it out and a study from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston supports that. (Why your cell phone causes sleep problems.)

If you wake up in the middle of the night and can't fall back to sleep, try this:

After 30 minutes of sleeplessness, give in and just get up for a little while.  DO NOT go on the computer and try to stay away from your cell phone.  Have a drink of water and lay down in another area of the house.  If you have night sweats or are cold, try to take care of that by changing your clothes or using an extra blanket.  Lay still for a little until your body is able to acclimate and fall back to sleep.

I watch reruns of Law & Order.  After about an hour, I turn it off and fall back to sleep.  Even though my sleep was interrupted, I almost always am able to get through the day.  If I can't fall back to sleep, I am at least resting and have kept my cognitive activity to a minimum, so my brain is able to rest, even if I am awake.  Most people will tell you to not watch TV, but this is what works for me.

Three:  Be Good to Yourself
  • Get a massage.
  • Get your nails done.
  • Meditate and pray.
  • Get up a little earlier than you normally do and try stretching with quiet music for 20 - 30 minutes.
  • Eat healthy - plan your meals.
  • Don't beat yourself up when things go wrong.
  • Talk to your friends.  
I am amazed at how many people tell me they don't have friends, or at least not friends they can talk to.  Making friends is so hard and I totally get it.  I lost a best friend last year and the thought of trusting someone else causes me so much anxiety.  But I could not get through life's challenges without having a confidant or two to help me.  

If you struggle with not having friends, you have to make a conscious effort to expand your circle, even if it's only by adding one or two people to your friend list.  Go to church and join a small group.  Have lunch with someone whose company you enjoy and make a point to do it more often.  Pray and ask God to meet your need and to give you courage to branch out and make a new friend.  These ladies are the backbone to my support system.  I can't imagine how I would get through without them.

The Bottom Line
When you are stressed, the most important thing you can do is try to alleviate your stress.  If it's a short term problem, recognize that you will get through it.  It may be hell for a week or a month, but it will eventually pass.  

If you are dealing with a more long term stressful situation, implement some of the things I mentioned above.  Even if it's small measures, a little can go a long way to help you manage whatever is in front of you.
Instrumental music is so soothing.  Some of my favorite artists are Jim Brickman, Kenny G and Yanni.  Just listen to the notes and let them cover you with peace and serenity.


Everyone's needs are uniquely individual, and I know finding time for it is often what interferes with being able to reduce your stress.  Often the feeling of "There's not enough of me to go around" is the one thing that stresses us out.  It is amazing the time you find when you prioritize it.  Knock out some of the things you feel like you absolutely "have to do" and wait until the weekend to do them.  If you have plans every weekend and just can't, then cut out some of the plans.  I'm serious.  Your kids will survive if they don't participate in a season of sports or if you take turns with another parent to bring them to practice.  Some of the things you think are so important probably are not deal breakers.  Housework can wait.  The earth will not end if there are fingerprints on the fridge and a pile of mail on the counter.

Take care of you.  Make yourself a priority so you can better take care of those who need you.  If you are stressed and unhappy, your family feels it.  You end up being someone you don't want to be.

Take care of you first


Tracey's  Getting Fit is celebrating it's two year anniversary!

Question for you: (answer in the comment section below)
What is one thing you do to help manage your stress?

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