Some stress is normal, but the build-up of stress over time can cause health and wellness issues. The stress hormone, cortisol, is released when we feel stress, but if we can respond within two minutes in a positive way to stop this stress reaction we can halt the build-up of cortisol.
This is important as the accumulation of cortisol over time can lead to weight gain or difficulty with weight loss. Another stress-related health issue is declining sleep time or declining sleep quality. Poor sleep quality and less sleep time can also lead to weight gain as the hunger control hormones, ghrelin, and leptin, are regulated while we sleep.
The best way to manage stress is to prevent it before it even starts! Some ideas for preventing or reducing stress before it starts are:
- Practice saying “no” more often Find what you value in life, prioritize those things, and say no to the rest.
- Schedule and prioritize your time according to the values you identified previously.
- Plan ahead This could include planning or prepping healthy meals; scheduling your workouts, or setting aside time for relaxation.
It’s not always possible to prevent stress before it starts but finding new ways to respond can make a difference. Recognize when you feel stressed and find new ways to respond. This is important if you find yourself reacting to a stressful situation by being inactive or overeating or emotional eating.
Some options to reduce stress or respond more positively to stressful situations are:
- Meditation, yoga, stretching
- Exercise: Find an activity you enjoy!
- Reading, coloring, crafting, or journaling
- Ask for help: Identify what others can take off your plate to help you reduce stress
- Breathing. Try this: 1. Take a full deep breath. 2. Hold and count slowly to five. 3. Exhale slowly and relax all your muscles from your face all the way down to your toes.
How we react to stress and stressful situations is the key to combatting and preventing chronic stress. Where can you make changes in hydration, nutrition, sleep, movement, thinking, or breathing to reduce or prevent stress in your life?