First and foremost, this is NOT to say that if you “weigh less” you’re “healthy” – healthy is a lot of different factors added together. With that in mind, let’s continue….
Over the years, I’ve had a lot of people share with me how they are trying to lose weight, or watch their calories, or that they have had a recent season of gaining weight and want to return to their normal level of happy, healthy, strong, and comfortable. As someone in the health and fitness industry, I see this theme a lot. But what they have in common isn’t unhealthy eating or large portion sizes, in fact some of them eat very healthy. What they DO have in common is the enormous ability to hold on to high levels of stress.
I don’t think I’m sharing anything new with anyone. We all know that heighten levels of stress can cause weight gain OR weight loss resistance. What boggles my mind is that when it comes time to lose the weight or get back into shape, most people don’t want to focus on the stress factor. It’s easier to focus on what we’re eating or not eating, and how we’re exercising or not exercising. Yes, in order to lose weight we need to consume less than we are taking in, however, not every calorie is created equal AND even if you restrict calories, but still remain in a constant level of stress, your body will cease operations, causing to you to hold on to all that weight and even GAIN MORE because now you’re creating even more stress my restricting calories.
One of the first steps to a healthier you will be learning to shed the stress. Trust me, I’ve been there. I’ve stared stress in the eyes and told it to get the HECK out of my life. But inevitably HE always comes back. That’s life! We all have seasons of stress. It’s how we choose to deal with the stress, minimize the stress, recover from the stress, take breaks from the stress, and not carry the stress wherever we go that will determine whether we lose the weight and return to the happy healthy individual we want to be.
So, rather than give you the scientific studies and mumbo jumbo, that you can google on your own, about how stress affects your body, I’m going to give some tips to manage your stress and help make weight loss (or even maintenance) a little easier. Because as we all know, you can’t just do ONE thing, you must conquer your health from all angles and create balance. See what I did there….LOL.
1. Set Boundaries.
Could it be that you haven’t set your boundaries? Let’s take the workplace as an example, when you leave do you think about work when you’re at home? Are you thinking about it when you are with your spouse or kids? Are you unable to shut off on the weekends and leave that work at the office? I understand that if you are an entrepreneur this boundary thing gets hard, even harder if you work from home, even harder if you are a breadwinner who supports the family and failure is not an option. But the truth is, boundaries will make you more respected, more efficient, and even more focused when you are working. So, set your boundaries. Personal Example: I have one phone free day a week. No emails, no social media, or anything to do with work. The only phone use I do is to listen to music or an entertainment podcast while I take my dog for a walk OR to call family and say hello. Otherwise the whole day is to spend with my family and renew my spirit. Pick an hour, or a day, or whatever it is and remove yourself from the thing that is causing you stress.
2. Meditate (or practice mindfulness), Pray, or Journal Daily.
I can’t be enough of an advocate for these things. I’ve seen their power first hand. Just 5 minutes a day of just one of these things can help to re-center you and calm your nervous system, signaling to your body that the stress is over, and it can get on with making good use of the healthy nutrients you’ve been consuming (just assuming). These activities help aid relaxation and eliminate festering. Because that’s what stress likes to do right, fester. So, pick one, or pick all three, it really doesn’t matter, but just a little a day, goes a very long way!
3. Get Moving, Gently.
The funny thing about stress is that your body sees it all the same. It can’t tell between the stress at work, the stress of intense exercise, or being chased by a lion. Research has proven that cardiovascular activity can really do a lot to reduce stress, but that might be the mind shifting us into a better mood. However, if we are exercising too much – stress. All it sees is stress. So set some time aside for some gentle movement too. Things like yoga, taking a walk, or if you’re from California, hit the beach and try some body boarding…is that still a thing? You get my drift. Do something you can enjoy and if you can do it outside, fresh air is great for reducing stress too!
4. Practice Gratitude.
You can always align this one with number 2 if desired. A grateful mind is more likely to focus on the positive things than what’s going wrong in any given situation. Training your mind to be grateful for a minimum of one thing per day can help you see the bright side and not necessarily take the stressful things away but change what your focus and perception.
5. Give Yourself Screen Limits.
What’s the first thing you do in the morning when you wake up? Is it check your phone? Email? Social media? Please stop. Rather, try to do something that will help you grow or makes you feel happy, calm, and/or confident. When you check your phone, email, or social media accounts first thing in the morning, you allow others to set the tone for your day. YOU should set your tone for the day. Personally, my morning routine goes like this: Wake up, drink water, write down 5 things I’m grateful for, meditate for 5 minutes, workout, get ready, get the kids ready, drop the kids to school….and then I start to focus on work, or whatever else I need to get done, or check social media 😉. At the end of every night my phone shuts off at 7 pm. If you call or text me, I don’t get it until the morning (unless you’re on my favorites list or I happen to pick up my phone for some reason). My point is that, you need space. Screen limits give you space.
6. Make time to laugh, be around people you care about, and rest.
I’m lumping all three of these into the very last tip. We are social creatures. And even if you’re an introvert, being around others with whom you enjoy their company, can bring laughter and joy. Nothing cures stress like a smile, a hug, or just knowing companionship is available. In the same token, we must give ourselves time to rest. To restore and refill our cups. Rest can mean having alone time or it can mean getting to bed an hour early, either way, give your mind, body and soul time to rejuvenate.
I’d love to hear from you. What’s the one you do to help combat stress? I feel like there are so many different things we can do and these 6 tips is just a few of the many techniques people can try. Let me know in the comments what your favorite thing to do is when you need to release some stress.