While some amount of stress in our lives is necessary, and even good for us, constant chronic stress isn’t. Many of us are so busy and overwhelmed by all that we ‘must’ get done in a day that our body responds as if in a constant state of panic. While our brain may know that we are not under threat of a real attack, our bodies’ biological systems do not. In this state, our stress hormones (cortisol) rise. Our bodies use glucose (sugars) as fuel, rather than burning fat, causing fat storage to build. This can also cause cravings for sugar and easy carbohydrates. If you were to check your blood sugar when stressed, it may be high even though you haven’t eaten anything recently.
While you may not be able to change your life’s circumstances, here are some tips to help avoid chronic stress and therefore burn more fat and function better overall.
- Pay attention to your thought patterns. When you find yourself rushing, feeling something is vitally urgent and stressful, etc – try to reframe where possible. You will probably get things done just as quickly, if not more so, if you can let go of the stressful urgency.
- Take a moment to take deep breaths and/or build a breathing practice into your daily routine. When you take deep breaths from your diaphragm it sends signals to your body that it is okay and safe. It communicates biologically that there is no immediate threat of an attack. To do this, place your hands below your belly button. Your hands should rise on an inhale and then contract on your exhale.
- Exercise can help reduce stress, particularly gentle exercise such as walking, yoga, and tai chi.
- Make sure to get enough sleep – 7 to 9 hours per night.
- Consider reducing or eliminating caffeine intake. Caffeine has a similar effect as stress does on our bodies, so it can exacerbate all of the problems of chronic stress.
- Get outside. Just being in nature can have a tremendously calming effect. Walking outside combines the two and may refresh you to do more work when you get back to it. (If you haven’t already, sign up for my newsletter to receive an article about the benefits of exercise on our productivity).
Choose one of the above to focus on in the next week. This is a key that could unlock weight loss and more energy, with the added benefit of losing that feeling of overwhelm that chronic stress can cause!