Stress can harm your health by impairing your immune system and promoting disease. A stressor becomes harmful when an individual lacks an effective way of controlling it. Stress is also a common reason given for overeating or emotional eating. Some individuals tend to avoid physical activity when they are stressed out, too. Therefore, it’s important to recognize the signs of stress and find ways to manage stress to promote fitness.
- What is stress? Any mental or physical stimulus that disrupts the body’s equilibrium—it can be positive or negative. Any change that you must adjust to. It can be:
- Environmental (noise, weather, traffic, time pressures, job performance standards)
- Physiological (illness, lack of sleep, poor diet, aging)
- Thoughts (worry, negative self-talk, fear)
Stress and How It Affects Your Mind and Body:
5. Stress is revealed through physical and emotional symptoms:
|Upset stomach||Feeling helpless|
|Difficulty sleeping||Loss of self-esteem|
|Tense muscles||Loss of concentration|
|Shortness of breath||Withdrawal|
|Change in appetite||Anxiety|
What are the signs you use to recognize stress? Use mindfulness (practice being aware of stress symptoms since they often become unconscious)
Some Methods for Reducing Stress. You Are Your Wisest Counselor!
|Predict it with awareness||Nutrition|
|Assertiveness||Rest or Sleep|
|Look at self-talk||Physical activity|
|Emotional expression/Sharing||Relax/Deep breathing|
|Look at past experiences||Find support|
|Allow enough time||Counseling|
|Set realistic goals||Music|
|Set healthy limits||Massage|
|Correct thinking distortions||Nurturing|
|Enjoy the beauty of nature||Pet an animal|
|Manage triggers: alter, avoid, accept||Balance time alone, with others, work, rest, and fun|
© 2004, adapted with permission, Kaiser Permanente Northwest Health Education Services, Cultivating Health ™ Weight Management Kit
When we remind ourselves of the benefits for changing, it can help us get back on track. Note the benefits for physical activity. Physical activity can lessen stress, control blood pressure, decrease resting heart rate, etc. But it also helps to deal with stressful situations be increasing your mental sharpness, concentration, problem solving skills, and creativity. Shifting our attitudes will also help us overcome our resistance to doing exercise.
Stress is also a common reason given for overeating or emotional eating. Two out of three people eat more under stress. Plus, we don’t usually overeat vegetables when we’re stressed (Did you notice that “stressed” is “desserts” spelled backwards?) You can make small changes over time to improve your eating habits. Do your best tochoose foods rich in nutrients when you are under stress–vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, fat-free dairy, and healthy fats in moderation. Limit sugar, unhealthy fat, caffeine, and alcohol.
Exercise is like “mental floss”. It cleans out the stress that is stuck in your brain!
What do you find helps manage stress for you?
Resources:The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook, by Martha Davis and Mathew McKay, © 2002, New Harbinger Publication, Inc. Check out New Harbinger Publishers
- www.teachhealth.com gives the medical basis of stress, depression, anxiety, sleep problems, and drug use—explained in a fun, easy-to-read format. It’s really excellent!
- http://www.mindtools.com/smpage.html Learn 48 essential leadership skills at mindtools.com. Also visit links at: http://www.mindtools.com/links/Links.html
- www.stress.about.com articles and tips for reducing stress
- www.mindfulplace.com MBSR: Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction by Denice Gour. Find recorded meditations here: www.mindfulplace.com/id13.htm
Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness (Paperback) by Jon Kabat-Zinn This book is also a terrific introduction for anyone who has considered meditating but was afraid it would be too difficult or would include religious practices they found foreign. Kabat-Zinn focuses on “mindfulness,” a concept that involves living in the moment, paying attention, and simply “being” rather than “doing.” While you can practice anything “mindfully,” from taking a walk to cleaning your house, Kabat-Zinn presents several meditation techniques that focus the attention most clearly, whether it’s on a simple phrase, your breathing, or various parts of your body. The book goes into detail about how hospital patients have either improved their health or simply come to feel better despite their illness by using these techniques, but these meditations can help anyone deal with stress and gain a calmer outlook on life.
- Consider WHAT is creating a possible imbalance? Check out: Cultivating Balance in Your Life
- Contemplate: Your Life–Everything Is Interconnected!
- Stress and Life’s Burdens
- On The Spot Stress Managers
If you find that you are experiencing CHRONIC STRESS PATTERNS, that is a sign that your life is out of balance. Perhaps consider: Do you experience overwhelming circumstances and can’t achieve a healthier weight?