It’s a vicious cycle.… that never-ending ‘to-do’ list at home… running around after the kids… an overwhelming mountain of projects due at work… trying to please our partner, our family, our friends… aaargh!!! It’s little wonder that our stress levels have blown through the roof and that because we’re so emotionally and intellectually stretched, it’s so difficult to avoid reaching for the chocolate or the bottle of wine, when we’re teetering so closely to a melt-down!!
All of those extra kilojoules aren’t supporting our body’s best health though, and can result in unwanted weight gain (which typically becomes an additional source of stress in itself). Highly process foods and alcohol provide ‘empty calories’ (having little or no nutritional value), and can effectively ‘crowd out’ foods which contain higher quality nutritional value, thus leaving us deficient or imbalanced in many macro &/or micronutrients!
Stress-response emotional eating (that can lead to weight gain and nutritional deficiencies) isn’t the only way that stress sabotages our optimal health. It’s been long recognised now, that the stress hormone cortisol is associated with an increase in ‘belly fat’, slowing of the metabolism and (on average), burning over 100 fewer calories after consuming a high fat meal.
Put simply, stress not only supports the biological and behavioural mechanisms for weight gain, but it also prevents the physiological mechanisms required for weight loss!
Chronic stress sabotages our health in a number of other ways too. Not only can it compromise our immune system, leaving us more vulnerable to colds, flus and other infections, but it can also lead to high blood pressure, putting us as higher risk of stroke and heart disease. Fatigue, chronic headaches and body pain, disrupted sleep patterns, depression and anxiety may also result.
Stress is, for many of us, an inevitable part of our life, so improving the ways that we respond to it, can certainly alleviate many of the negative health outcomes.
Consider implementing these 5 savvy stress-busting strategies:
Exercise in almost any form is a great way to melt the day’s worries away! When we’re focusing our attention towards moving our body in the way a particular exercise or sport requires, we simply forget about the source of stress because we’re unable to concentrate on both things at once! Furthermore, the surge of post-exercise endorphins (happy hormones) makes us feel more energized and mentally capable of dealing with the source of stress.
It almost seems counter-intuitive doesn’t it… if exercise can help us de-stress, how can relaxation (which is practically the opposite to exercising), also help us to de-stress?
When we encounter stressful situations, our natural fight-or-flight mechanisms cause the release of stress hormones, like cortisol (mentioned above) as well as adrenaline. This activates the heart rate, slows digestion, and over prolonged periods, tires the body out and takes its toll.
Mindful relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, visualisation and deep breathing can help to reverse the impact of the fight-or-flight responses and allow us to feel more calm, centred and more able to manage stress effectively. As little as five (5) minutes each day can have an incredible impact on our physical and emotional wellbeing.
It doesn’t have to be rock climbing or skydiving, but stepping outside our comfort zone and trying something (anything) new, can really enrich our lives and allow us to escape from the daily ‘grind’. Learn a new skill by taking an art, cooking or singing class… or create something new by establishing a vegetable garden or undertaking a DIY project! All these things can really help to engage our minds towards more positive pursuits…. and often the concentration required, enables our breathing to settle into a meditative rhythm that relieves our body from all those stress hormones!
When we can later apply new skills or we can stand back and appreciate our new creation (especially if it’s something that was way outside our comfort zone or realm of possibilities), then we can be immensely proud of ourselves too…. and that thrill is far better than any stress related emotion!!
How annoying is it when we can’t immediately find what we’re looking for, at the exact moment we need it most? Wasting all that time when we’re in a hurry to get out the front door on time, or get to a meeting, can be quite infuriating! Or constantly being surround by extra ‘stuff’ all the time…. on our desks, our kitchen benches, our drawers and even in our wardrobes… it can all begin to feel a little overwhelming! Too many social media apps can also begin to feel burdensome with their constant demands and incessant flow of irrelevant information.
A simple solution? Get rid of it! Clear space of any unnecessary clutter…. put it away where it belongs, throw it out or donate it to a charitable organisation or community group. Delete unnecessary apps and invest in real human connections instead. In doing so, we create a much needed sense of ‘order,’ we feel lighter and less burdened by ‘stuff’ constantly stimulating our visual sensors, and life will flow with so much more ease.
Taking some time out each day to identify the things we are thankful for in our lives, really helps to put all of those frustrations and sources of stress into perspective. Refocussing and reconnecting our awareness with ‘the bigger picture’ can substantially boost our feelings of positivity and happiness and as a result, our physical health (including our immune system functioning and risk of chronic disease) can be substantially improved.
Regularly expressing gratitude not only makes us feel better about ourselves through the acknowledgement of our own accomplishments, but it can also enhance our relationships because we can better understand or appreciate the perspectives of other’s. Best of all, gratitude allows us (in a small way), to create a better world through our new positive energy that we radiate in our daily lives.
Embracing each of these savvy strategies with a positive attitude, will allow us to soothe the insidious health saboteur and enjoy life filled with more vibrant health.
Written by: Cherie Rivas
Women’s Health & Wellness Mentor & Coach
Feel ALIVE! energized and capable of performing at your peak, by nourishing your body with real, fresh, living foods…. just the way that nature intended!
ALIVE! is the Ultimate Perfect Produce Guide…. listing what’s in season (in a month-by-month format), as well as loads of great information and feature recipes.
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