Happy Monday everyone! This week is a special week of guest posts on the blog since I will be swamped with packing my apartment for my move to New York! Today we're kicking it off with an awesome post by Lindsey Banks. Lindsey is a fellow Sweat Pink Ambassador who is inspiring many to live healthier lives over on her blog Fit Life Pursuits. Below she explains why stress can lead to unhealthy habits which influence weight gain, and she offers some great tips on managing that stress in order to live a healthier life. Thank you, Lindsey, for the great tips and advice! Let's get started!
Fall is by far one of my most favorite times of the year. Cooler weather, pumpkin everything, college football, and changing colors. But, with fall comes busy schedules, deadlines, and a long to-do list to get ready for the holidays. While fall is fun, it can also be stressful. It is important that we know how to manage our stress levels so that we don’t get overwhelmed and can have a Happy Fall season! Stress can wreak havoc on our bodies and our overall health. Research has shown that stress can affect our mood, raise our blood pressure, and increase our heart rate. Believe it or not, stress also plays a big role in how we eat.
Chronic stress is actually tied to an increase in appetite, due to an increase in the stress hormone levels in our brain (called cortisol). It makes it difficult to avoid unhealthy food temptations and it causes us to eat even when we aren't hungry. Often times, eating actually becomes the activity that relieves stress and can ultimately lead to weight gain, especially in the waistline.
It's a vicious cycle. We get stressed and exhausted and reach for those quick and convenient "comfort foods" (my favorite being ice cream). Many of them are filled with sugars and caffeine and may give us a quick burst of energy, only to result in a "crash" later on. We then decide to skip the evening workout because we are too tired. Our unhealthy diet and lack of exercise then leads to even more stress and fatigue, and the cycle continues on.
The important thing is that we break that cycle. There are several strategies for reducing stress, which can ultimately help reduce the risk of weight gain and an unhealthy lifestyle.
Top 10 Ways to Reduce Stress
1 | Listen to music
Listening to calming slow-paced music such as classical, folk, lullaby, and slow contemporary has shown to reduce stress levels (my current favorite being “Ends of the Earth”). While these may not be your preferred music of choice, it may be helpful to create a "stress-relieving playlist" to have on hand when you are feeling a little wound up, and save the rock and rap for when you need to get pumped up.
2 | Get more sleep
This may seem like a no-brainer, but a lot of us STILL don't do it! It is recommended that adults get 7.5 hours of quality sleep per night. Some of us may struggle with the "quality" part of the sleep equation. It is important to avoid caffeine late in the day, and not eat a big unhealthy meal right before bed. Instead, opt for some light healthy snacks to improve sleep quality and get into a sleep routine.
3 | Write things down
Writing down how you feel, writing down your daily goals, or keeping a daily journal can help reduce stress and anxiety. You only need to spend a few minutes a day writing down your thoughts. This will help bring to light the things that are going right in your life and will help you to stay positive as you work through the negative emotions. It helps to put things in perspective.
4 | Just breathe
Taking long and slow deep breaths can help to reduce your heart rate and blood pressure. It can improve overall relaxation and reduce feelings of stress. While breathing is an automatic function, slow, deep breathing requires some effort. Try to practice a slow, deep breathing technique when feeling stressed until it becomes more natural.
5 | Get rid of your clutter
Having a messy desk and a cluttered life can make anyone feel overwhelmed and stressed. Take the time to clean your work area before you start your day. Get rid of the junk in your house, office, car, pantry, closet, and any other hidden stash that you no longer use. All that stuff you are holding onto will just end up holding you back from a life free from stress.
6 | Make a schedule
Making a list of your daily activities or duties can help reduce stress by making us feel more in control of our lives and our time. So, get your planner out and write down your plan for the day. You may actually realize it's not as stressful as you thought! It also helps you to schedule in time for rest, exercise, and sleep, which are other great stress relievers.
7 | Exercise daily
Exercise of any form can be a stress reliever by producing the "feel good" chemical in the brain, called endorphins. Even if you go for a walk or do a low intensity aerobics class, a little exercise can go a long way. Not only does it pump up your endorphins, but it also helps improve your sleep.
8 | Have sex
That's right, I said it! Getting sweaty under the sheets has shown to reduce anxiety and stress levels. Research has shown that sex can lead to cell growth in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that helps control stress levels. And the brain releases the love hormone (oxytocin) during sex, a natural mood enhancer.
9 | Get outside
Surrounding yourself with nature can be one of the best stress-relievers there is. Whether it's taking a walk through the park on your way home from work or spending the weekend camping in the mountains, taking advantage of open spaces and fresh air is a simple way to reduce stress levels.
10 | Eat a healthy diet
Eating a well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats will help your body function at its best. It will also help to keep your appetite and the desire for binge eating under control. Transitioning into a healthy lifestyle means taking care of yourself. Not only with the foods you eat, but also with the ways you handle the stress in your life. Creating a healthy lifestyle starts with developing small manageable healthy habits over time.
If you need help creating healthy eating habits, be sure to check out my new book, The Food Dare. The Food Dare is a 30-day guide which will allow you to add healthy new habits into your life in manageable steps. These healthy habits will become a lifestyle, not a diet. This dare is not about deprivation or restriction. It's about adding to your life to make your daily choices healthier.
You can get The Food Dare here, and enter the giveaway below for your chance to win a free copy! Note: Giveaway is open to US readers only (sorry!). Winner can choose between hard copy and Kindle edition.
Readers: chat with us! What tips resonate with you? Do you have any others to add? What's your de-stressor routine?
Lindsey is a Florida-raised, Oregon-living wife, dog mom, outdoor enthusiast and fitness lover. She has a passion for helping women experience life to the fullest, without feeling held back by extra weight, lack of confidence, or an unhealthy lifestyle. Her mission is to inspire women to pursue a fit lifestyle so they can always say “yes” to any exciting adventure that comes their way, without having to worry if their body is up for it. She enjoys hiking, climbing, skiing, and spending time being active outdoors with her husband and their two dogs. You can connect with Lindsey, get fitness training, get her book, and read more about her outdoor adventures at Fitlifepursuits.com.