How is your stress level? Have you evaluated how you are feeling lately? Sometimes I think it is hard to really tell the level of stress you have, as you run from thing to thing and simply try to make it through the day. After finishing up my graduate work, getting the thesis 100% completed, edited, revised, and turned in for publication, I was able to take a break. I knew I had been stressed with course work, moving, and various other things, but I didn't realize really how it was affecting me until I took a step back, and took a break.
I started spending more time on things that helped me de-stress and feel better. I started sleeping better, eating better, exercising more, and my energy level went sky high. It was a very obvious indicator to me that I had not been dealing with my stress well and should have focused differently. I had no idea how bad I had been feeling, until I started feeling good. I recommend people evaluate their stress levels all the time, yet hadn't done it with myself! Sometimes, with out a conscious effort, it is hard to tell how stressed you actually are, and what that stress is even influencing.
If you are trying to lose weight, or simply be healthy, stress is not something you should take lightly! It may seem like stress should lead to weight loss. Anxiety makes us feel hungry and is exhausting. Unfortunately, stress actually leads to weight gain. Chronic stress that lasts over a period of months or even years, floods our body with cortisol.
Cortisol is secreted by the adrenal glands, and is a steroid hormone. When we first find ourselves under stress, cortisol quickly mobilizes carbohydrate and fat for quick energy (known common as that fight or flight response). Once the initial stress has passed, cortisol then causes an increased appetite, because we need to replace the carbohydrate and fat that was used previously, while fighting or flighting. ( I think I just made up the word "flighting", but you know what I mean!)
However, for most of us we aren't fighting or flighting during times of stress. This response was critical for cavemen, who were dealing with danger. To hunt and kill the animal, or run away from it...that is the question... We are suffering from stress from new sources, but still having the same response. Most likely while sitting at a desk or at home.
Many of us are sedentary or minimally active. So this means we are taking in more calories then we are expending and that leads to weight gain when our cortisol levels are high. If this happens just once, it doesn't necessarily lead to any weight gain, but when the cycle continues for months or years, the extra calories can really add up. You need to find a way that works for you to relax. Reading a book, going on a walk, yoga, anything that helps you! I recommend evaluating your stress level and sources, then making a list of ways that work for you to relax, and turn to those often, even when you aren't consciously feeling stressed.
What do you find works for you to help when you are stressed? Share with others in the comments below!
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