Welcome to Week 2 of the 4 week Health Improvement Challenge! Today we will be talking about:
Did you know that stress can increase your weight?
Cortisol is a hormone that is produced in increasing amounts when we are under stress. One of its primary functions is to mobilise energy during times of stress so that we can fight our enemies…. or run away! It does this in two main ways – increasing appetite and breaking down fat stores so that the fat is ready to be used by the body. The problem is that most stress these days tends to be emotional rather than physical, so when this fat isn’t used to wrestle a bear or run from a lion, it gets redeposited around the waist – in the place that is worst for our health.
There are two key tricks that you can use to reduce the amount of weight that you gain as a result of stress:
1. Get adequate sleep – sleep deprivation increases cortisol levels.
2. Exercise – exercise is probably the best thing that you can do when you are stressed. It burns up the energy that has been mobilised by cortisol, so that you don’t gain additional weight. Focus on cardio exercise that gets your heart rate up. If you’re stressed and you don’t have time for exercise, try just doing a quick burst of exercise. For example, in today’s workout change the walking to light running (run up the hill, walk down) to increase your heart rate. Exercise will help reduce your stress as well as your cortisol levels.
Today we want to focus on teaching you three quick strategies for reducing your stress levels: slowing your breathing, thinking logically and changing your environment.
Slow your breathing – take 5 breaths. Make each breath as deep and slow as you possibly can. Perhaps count the seconds for each out breath and for each in breath. It only takes about a minute to do this activity but will refocus your mind and increase the amount of oxygen flowing around your body to help you regain control.
Think logically – when stress increases, we become more emotional. We start thinking and acting with our heart instead of our head. That’s not always a bad thing, unless you’re stressed and your emotions become out of control. To think rationally again you need to get your logic to dominate once again. Take some time out to do an easy task that you need to focus on such as a puzzle, filing or counting.
Change your environment – if you’ve been in a stressful situation it can help to move to a different environment. For example, if you’ve just taken a stressful phone call in your office, move to the reception desk for some breathing space, or if you’ve had an argument at home, going for a walk can be a good way to clear your head. If possible move to a more spacious environment, or better still go outdoors for a few minutes. The fresh air works wonders.
So, just to recap: if you’re feeling stressed, don’t let your stress levels continue to escalate, halt them by focusing on your breathing, undertaking a task which causes you to think logically or changing your environment.
Click here to view the SiSU Wellness Food Guide for Stress