Stress is a part of life. However, just because stress enters your daily routine does not mean you need to let it control your life. Studies have shown a strong correlation between weight gain and stress. In this module your counselor will provide you with practical tips on how to avoid stress taking over your life.
What is stress?
Stress is anything that poses a challenge or a threat to our well-being. Stress affects both mental and physical health. Stress triggers certain hormones to be released due to work or life demands and the body will adapt hormonally.
Effects of Stress
Stress causes changes in mental health and also affects the body in other ways including: Increase in blood pressure, increase in heart rate, tense muscles, lack of sleep, decrease in immune system function and slowing of the digestive system. Some additional long term effects of stress are anxiety, depression, heart disease, and memory and concentration impairment.
Weight Gain and Stress
Stress induces a hormone called cortisol to be released into the body. Higher levels of cortisol in the body will cause fat to be deposited in the abdominal area. Generally speaking, the more stress in your life, the more fat that may to be mobilized and deposited into the abdominal area.
The Effects of Chronic Stress and Cortisol
- Metabolism: Cortisol slows down metabolism, which can lead to weight gain.
- Cravings: During stressful times—you tend to choose salty, fatty and sugary foods.
- Blood Sugar: Prolonged stress can cause swings in blood sugar which over the years can lead to the development of chronic diseases.
- Lack of Sleep: This is common during stressful times, and it often leads to elevated secretion of cortisol and weight gain.
Identifying the sources of stress in your life. Look closely at habits, attitudes, and excuses. Assess what caused feelings of stress, how you felt (physically and emotionally), how you responded, and what you did to make yourself feel better.
Stress Management Tips
- Avoid unnecessary stress– Learn how to say “no.” Know your limits and stick to them. Avoid people who stress you out. Take control of your environment. Avoid unhealthy confrontation. Prioritize your to do list by eliminating tasks that are not truly necessary.
- Alter the situation – Express, your feelings instead of bottling them up, be willing to compromise, be more assertive, and manage your time better.
- Adapt to the stressor – Reframe problems with viewing situations from a positive perspective. Look at the big picture with how important issue is in long run. Adjust your standards, don’t set yourself up for failure, and focus on the positive.
- Accept the things you can’t change – Don’t try to control the uncontrollable, look at the bright side of your situation, share your feelings, and learn to forgive.
- Make time for fun and relaxation – Set aside relaxation time, connect with others, do something you enjoy every day, and keep a sense of humor.
- Adopt a healthy lifestyle – Exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, reduce caffeine and sugar intake, avoid alcohol, and get enough sleep.
Note: Until you accept responsibility for the role you play in creating or maintaining it, your stress level will remain the same outside your control!
- Immediate Stress Relievers—Take a walk, meditate, do yoga, run, play with your kids or animals, or lift weights. Start a stress journal. Writing about anger, sadness and other painful emotions helps to release the intensity of these feelings. Journaling will help you feel calmer and better able to resolve issue and let go of negative feelings. Remember to think of the positives in your life, not only the negatives.
- Good to know: Until you accept responsibility for the role you play in creating or maintaining your stress, nothing will change. The stressors that enter your life can often not be controlled; however you can control how you react to the stressor.