Non-Dieting Resolution: Release Stress

Research shows that elevated stress levels cause an increase in the body’s production of cortisol and that cortisol promotes weight gain by slowing your metabolism and storing fat around your belly.  It also affects your body’s ability to control its blood sugar.  So it could be making you tired and crave sugar!

My personal research is much less scientific.  Stress makes me fat.  It makes me crave food for comfort and entertainment.  It makes me much less likely to coerce myself into exercising.  And, it makes it nearly impossible for me to concentrate and keep my priorities (good health and the pursuit of pleasure) in line.  Unfortunately, stress is unavoidable.  To help manage your stress level, mull over some of these thoughts and suggestions.

First, determine what stress-causers are changeable and unchangeable.   Pardon me for stating the obvious, but make a list of what you can and cannot change!  For example, having to work 40 hours a week and take care of multiple children is stressful, but there’s nothing I can do about it.  However, having to pack lunches in a cluttered kitchen every morning while rushing said children to school is something I can change.  Two years ago I came to the conclusion that watching what I eat is a stress-causer, but one I cannot avoid.  I have to watch my weight to keep it down or I’ll watch it go up.  Either way, I will experience some level of stress.  I decided I’d rather have the stress on the front end and make healthy, albeit less convenient food choices, then on the back end and never have any clothes that fit or self-confidence.

Second, develop strategies for coping with your stress.  As I mentioned before, I have to pack lunches.  My strategy is to de-clutter the kitchen, pack lunches at night and make the kids pack their own a couple days a week. For my weight, I adopted a vegan-ish lifestyle. As a vegan, I still have to watch my food, but I don’t have to watch my calories.

For the stress you cannot avoid, find something relaxing to do.  I find deep breathing helpful.  For more information about breathing for relaxation, read Dr. Andrew Weil’s book Breathing:  The Master Key to Self Healing.  His techniques were designed to reduce the effect stress has on the body and to open the mind to helpful, constructive suggestions.  Let me also suggest wine and a pretty porch.  Nothing melts stress for me like alcohol and the great outdoors.  You may prefer a bubble bath or tunes on the iPod.  Whatever works works!  Just don’t leave your stress relief to chance.  Take control of your health and happiness in every way you can!

Third, if you’re really overwhelmed, consult an expert.  Don’t rule out the value of a few counseling sessions or hypnotherapy or a life coach.  When stress starts to get ahead of me, I scour the library’s website for help.  That’s where I found Dr. Andrew Weil’s book.  Whatever you do, resolve that you will not let stress steal your health this year.  Make relaxing one of your new priorities.

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