According to the American Psychological Association and the American Institute of Stress, the amount of perceived stress that we face has increased exponentially in the past five years. The top stressors are money, work, and personal health. Stress can adversely affect our well-being and has the means to shift our biological functions, such as affecting our cortisol balance and thereby our ability to lose weight. However, no matter how stressful your life is, there are steps you can take to relieve the pressure and regain control.
First, what are the sources? How did you feel both physically and emotionally? How did you respond? If you do not know the answers, start a journal. It is too easy to overlook your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that contribute to your stress. Sure, you may know that you are constantly worried about work deadlines, but maybe it is your procrastination rather than the actual job demands that is causing the stress. To identify the true sources, look closely at your habits, attitude, and excuses.
Next, how do you currently cope? Are your coping strategies helpful or unproductive? Unfortunately, many of us cope with stress in ways that compound the problem. For example, we may binge eat on junk foods. But bingeing will lead to weight gain, and ultimately, we will be more stressed about how to lose weight.
So, what are some healthier options?
- Engage in physical activities. Physical activities release endorphins that boost your mood. You do not have to spend hours in a gym to experience the benefits. Any form of physical activity can help burn away the anger, tension, or frustration. You can take your dog for a walk or bike to the grocery store. Needless to say, you can lose weight and manage your stress simultaneously.
- Reach out to others. Have lunch with a friend who makes you feel understood or help others out by volunteering.
- Avoid unnecessary stress. For example, if going to the market is unpleasant, do your grocery shopping online.
- Alter the situation. Often times, this involves changing the way you communicate and operate. If someone is bothering you, communicate your concerns in an open, respectful way, and be willing to compromise. If you are unhappy with your weight, join a program to lose weight.
- Adapt to the stressor. For example, instead of fuming about a traffic jam, look at it as an opportunity to breathe. Whatever the situation is, ask yourself: is it really worth getting riled over?
- Accept the things you cannot change. You cannot prevent or modify stressors, such as the death of a loved one. In such cases, the best way to cope is to accept things as they are. Focus on the things you can control, such as the way you react. When facing major challenges, look at them as opportunities for personal growth. If your own poor choices contributed to a stressful situation, learn from the situation.
- Make time for fun and relaxation. Try spending time in nature or reading a book. Do not become so caught up in the bustle of life that you forget yourself.
- Adopt a healthy lifestyle. Clean eating will help you lose weight, and a well-nourished body is better prepared to cope with stress. Feeling tired will increase your stress by causing you to think irrationally, so get adequate sleep.