We all have a "load" that we carry around every day in our minds of things we have to do, family we have to care about, work stress, worries about what someone said or did to us that hurt us, and the list goes on. In having these mental and emotional burdens on our mind, we tend to get stressed very easily, tire out quickly, and in turn, sometimes forget to care for ourselves. Not only that, but when we get stressed, the hormonal levels shift in our bodies, including increased levels of the "stress hormone" cortisol. According to the Mayo Clinic, increased cortisol levels in our bodies can increase blood sugar levels in our bloodstream and can suppress our digestive system. Long-term release of cortisol can lead to increased risk of developing heart disease, digestive issues, depression, and obesity.
In addition, when we are stressed we tend to either eat more, or eat very little, both of which can wreak havoc on our waistlines. If we eat more than our body requires to maintain energy throughout the day, we will gradually start to gain weight. It only takes an extra 500 calories above our daily recommended calories to gain 1 lb./week. This extra 500 calories could be as simple as drinking 3 cans of cola or two beers, grabbing a large order of fries at the local fast food joint, or eating 1-2 cups of ice cream.
If we don't eat enough to maintain our body's daily processes, then our metabolism starts to slow down. In the long-term, our body starts to think "Well, if you aren't going to feed me, then I'm gonna hold on tight to everything you give me." In addition to "holding on" to all of the calories it receives, your body will start to use the stored protein in the lean mass of your muscles, which can slow down your metabolism, further slowing down the use of the stored energy in your body. All together, this can lead to fatigue, weight gain, and in turn, further stress and frustration.
Therefore, lighten your "load" to lighten your waistline by:
- Taking 15 minutes of "me" time a day: This could be waking up earlier than usual to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee without any distractions, reading a book or magazine before you go to bed, taking a short walk during your break at work, or taking a bubble bath to wash the stress of the day away!
- Finding ways to better deal with stress: When stress comes our way, whether it be a traffic jam, a bothersome person at work, having "too much to do and too little time," relationship stress, or financial worries, most of us get so caught up in the moment of the stressor that we let it affect us both emotionally and physically. If we take a moment to ask ourselves "Is this going to matter a year from now?" and " Is this person/place/thing worth affecting my health and well-being?", then we will realize that most of the stuff we stress about is just small stuff, and the not-so-small stuff can be dealt with in other more appropriate ways if we just take a deep breath and refocus our thoughts on resolution rather than resentment and frustration.
- Talk with someone about your stress: Sometimes all it takes to release stress from our bodies is to talk to someone about what is bothering us. And, no, this doesn't mean sending out posts on social media complaining about how miserable you are or how tired you are of this and that and the other. Picking up the phone or sitting down to talk someone we trust can provide a second ear to our worries and stressors can help us figure out what is truly important in our lives and to forget about the small stuff. In addition, having another person listen to our troubles can help us to figure our resolutions for those bigger issues that may be weighing down on our minds.
- Coming up with a plan: Once you decide what problems are truly important to your life, write down some ways you can work on dealing with that stressor. If it is a financial problem, sit down and create a budget, talk with a financial planner, or start cutting out unnecessary expenses. If it is a relationship problem, talk with that person about what is bothering you, talk with a relationship counselor, and decide if you should continue pursuing that relationship based on such interventions. Once you have a plan for dealing with your stress, it will no longer be weighing on your mind and causing physical stress on your body.
No stressor is worth your health. You have to stay healthy so you can enjoy life, be there for those you care about, and to be the healthiest you that YOU can be!