Stress: Are YOU your problem?

chemistry messages May 03, 2013

You're having the worst day.

Another project just got added to your pile, you still have to finish your quarterly report, and an emergency meeting was added to your calendar for today.  Because of all this you decide you have no time for lunch and to skip your workout.  You manage to get through the day and can't wait to get home and veg out.  You have a couple of drinks, eat a big dinner (you're starving - you missed lunch!) and watch several of your favorite TV shows as your reward for making it through another stressful day.

You know what's wrong with this scenario?  The choices you made to skip lunch and your workout as well as having a few drinks, a big meal and zoning out in front of the TV for several hours - they've actually ADDED to your stress and made you less resilient!

SKIPPING A MEAL:  When we go too long without eating the stress response is stimulated.  Our bodies releases stress hormones like cortisol that result in us overeating later on high fat, high sugar foods and much of it is stored as fat around the midsection. (Read more about this here.)

INSTEAD: Eating a small meal or snack about every 3-4 hours throughout the day ensures you're not kicking the stress response into gear.

SKIPPING A WORKOUT:  Exercise is one of the best ways to deal with stress - especially when it's cardiovascular interval training.  It mimics the fight or flight response, which in turn burns off the stress hormones, and releases a new set of hormones that make us happy and calm. We're hitting the reset  button.

INSTEAD: This type of exercise raises our overall threshold for stress as well as teaches our bodies to recover from stress more quickly and efficiently. I've created a simple tool to get this burst of activity any time, any where, with no equipment needed: click here to get it.

HAVING SEVERAL COCKTAILS:  Sometimes it feels like they're the only way to unwind after a stressful day. And you earned them, right? Unfortunately having several of them can stimulate the release of cortisol and the stress response. It also decreases the quality of your sleep, which is another great tool for stress resiliency.

INSTEAD: If you're going to consume alcohol the recommendation is no more than one drink for women and no more than two drinks for men (sorry ladies - it's based off body size).

EATING A HUGE MEAL:  A big reason we stress eat is the stress hormone cortisol. One of its jobs is to replace all the energy you spent fighting or fleeing by making you hungry - only you were stuck at your desk all day and didn't get exercise.  Now you're starving - and for high fat, high sugar foods.  Eating a huge meal also spikes blood glucose levels and your body has to work harder to process all of it.  Oh - and you're now in a food coma, stuck on the couch.

INSTEAD: Eating small amounts of food all day long keeps you from getting too hungry or too full and ensures you're not adding stress to the system.

WATCHING SEVERAL HOURS OF TV:  Watching TV has become one of the top ways we deal with stress (from Stress in America report). I'm not saying watching your favorite show is a bad way to deal with stress - it's when TV watching becomes a marathon. The average American watches 4+ hours of TV each day, which means more time spent sitting on top of the sitting most of us do at our jobs each day. From a health perspective sitting is one of the most dangerous things you do each day.

INSTEAD: Exercise is one of the top ways to deal with stress - get up and move! Connect with your loved ones. Meditate. Journal. Spend time on a hobby. Listen to music. All of these are healthy ways to mitigate stress.

Pick just one of these things to do the next time you're stressed out (or all of them if you're an overachiever). Instead of making things worse, you'll be improving your resiliency, performance and health!

To have Jenny Evans come and speak to your organization on stress, resiliency, performance and health, contact her here.

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