With today marking National Stress Awareness Day, it’s the perfect time to take stock, assess our current stress levels and take a look at some healthy strategies that might help us to manage our stress more effectively.
All about stress
Stress is a common part of life for most of us, and while a certain amount can be beneficial in motivating us and enhancing our performance, chronic stress can have detrimental effects on our health.
Stress is, in large part, the story of cortisol AKA, the ‘Stress Hormone‘. When we are stressed our bodies increase cortisol, which has been linked to weight gain and higher levels of visceral fat – the fat around our internal organs which is associated with many health conditions.⠀
Stress stops healthy habits
The link between stress and weight gain is real, mainly because healthy habits like getting enough sleep, exercising and eating a healthy diet are harder to maintain when you feel like you’re maxed out emotionally.
When we manage our stress it becomes easier to make those healthier decisions, like getting to bed earlier, exercising consistently and choosing more nutritious foods. This, in turn, can lead to more progress with weight loss and body recomposition. Take time to focus on yourself and use these tips to manage your stress so you can live optimally!
Physical activity is a powerful tool in managing stress. Exercise releases endorphins, the body’s natural mood lifters, which can help you feel better and reduce feelings of stress. Even a simple 20-minute walk outdoors in nature can have a positive impact on your mood. Incorporating different forms of exercise, such as yoga, weightlifting or swimming, can also provide variety and keep your routine interesting and enjoyable. The goal is to make physical activity a regular part of your life, so the most important thing is to find the activity that you actually enjoy doing!
Practice mindfulness training, such as meditation, prayer, breathing exercises and journalling. There are some really good apps that you can use to provide guidance that will also prompt you to do your daily practice and help you build a routine. Calm and Headspace are definitely worth a look.⠀
Get more physical contact – even as little as six seconds of physical contact can help to boost oxytocin, a stress fighting hormone. Mud wrestling or a bog-standard hug – the choice is yours!⠀
Our diet plays a significant role in how we react to stress. Eating a balanced diet helps our bodies function optimally, which in turn, can help us better manage stressful situations. When we’re stressed, we often reach for comfort foods which are typically high in sugar and fats. However, these foods can cause a spike in blood sugar levels, which can lead to more stress and anxiety. Instead, choosing foods rich in protein, fibre, and healthy fats like lean meats, whole grains, leafy greens and avocados, can help keep blood sugar levels stable and improve your mood and energy levels.
Rest and recover
During deep sleep our bodies create hormones that allow us to recover; improve brain function and our decision making abilities; help motor skills sink in and reduce inflammation. So, turn off the TV and get yourself off to bed early – it’s probably one of the best things you can do for your body and overall stress.
Get some sun
Sunlight gives us vitamin D3, which helps us make serotonin. When it’s dark, serotonin is then converted to melatonin which helps us to sleep better and reap all of those deep sleep benefits.
Reduce alcohol consumption
Alcohol essentially spikes our cortisol, and, similar to taking a sleep medication, prevents us from entering into deep sleep. This, again, means that we lose out on all of the benefits and adaptations that happen during deep sleep.
Why not try adopting just one of these healthy strategies and seeing how different you feel in terms of your stress levels?
When we reduce the stress of our daily lives our bodies are better able to perform optimally. We feel better, we think better, we do better in our jobs and are able to be more present in our relationships! Worth a try, don’t you think?
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