It’s a feeling experienced by everyone. Sometimes you might feel like you’re barely hanging on by a thread, and at other times you might be tempted to leave all your stress behind and go on an impromptu vacation with no return date. Trust me, we’ve all been there at one time or another. And while some stress can have positive effects on your life, too much can really wreak havoc on your health and on your efforts to lose those extra pounds. This negative stress can stem from a seemingly endless list of culprits—relationships, work, finances, loneliness, depression, unmet expectations, an over-scheduled calendar, health problems, and so on—and if you’re not good at managing it, stress can cause all kinds of issues with your digestion, heart, immune system, brain, and blood vessels, as well as headaches, sleep problems, muscle aches, anxiety, restlessness, irritability, anger, sadness, depression, a lack of motivation or focus, changes in your sex drive, and many others.
That list alone is enough to cause some pretty serious stress!
Here are some sobering statistics on stress from WebMD:
- Almost half of all adults experience health issues caused by stress.
- Between 75-90% of all doctor’s visits are for symptoms and illnesses caused by stress.
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that stress costs American companies more than $300 billion annually.
Stress is a natural response to the challenges you face every day, and when it hits, certain hormones are released to help you deal with it. If you’re trying to lose weight and you’re continually feeling stressed out, these hormones can cause you to gain weight or make it really difficult to lose weight if you don’t deal with stress in productive ways. It’s a vicious cycle: You feel stress, you’re too busy to eat healthy and/or you overeat because you’re stressed, you have a hard time reaching your weight loss goals, and this causes even more stress!
So how can you put the stresses of life in their proper place? Check out these stress-fighting tools:
- Be aware of what causes your stress. It’s easier to do something about it if you’re aware of it. Make notes on a calendar, keep a journal, or whatever works best to track your stress levels and stressors.
- Exercise regularly. Not only will you burn calories, but when you work out, biochemicals are released that help you feel better. And sometimes the worst thing about stress is feeling helpless to do anything to fix the problem, so exercising is something you can “do”! Promise yourself you’ll do at least 5 minutes of exercise every day, no matter what.
- Get enough sleep. Believe me—I know how hard this can be. I also know life goes much better, no matter how stressful it is, when I get enough sleep.
- Make time to relax. Even a few minutes here and there throughout your day can make a difference. Ever tried yoga? It’s a great way to relax and workout at the same time!
- Be grateful. There is always something to be grateful for, and when you can focus on the positive, the negative gets put in its proper place.
- Eat regular, healthy meals. Your blood sugar levels will stay steady, your body will have the nutrients it needs to function properly, and it’ll be easier to control your appetite. And you’ll just feel better.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can actually increase your stress and decrease your blood sugar levels.
- Build strong relationships with family and friends. It’s always good to have people you can vent to, rely on, go to for advice, and simply have fun with!
- Make time to do things you enjoy, and go for quality over quantity during stressful times.
- Serve others. It’ll help put your own problems into their proper perspective, and it always feels awesome to help someone in need.
And lastly, remember these words of wisdom: “When we long for life without difficulty, remind us that oaks grow strong under contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure” (Peter Marshall). The stresses of life can make you stronger, more giving, and an all-around better person when you’re able to deal with them in positive ways.