At varying points in our lives, we all encounter stress whether it be work related, family related or even health related. But the stress that we’ve experienced over the past couple of years was universal, unprecedented and continues to impact our health and well-being. At Copare we’ve seen many of our past clients, who were well equipped with the knowledge and tools to successfully maintain their weight loss, re-gain some of their weight. We also continue to welcome new clients who point to the pandemic as the cause of their weight gain. So what exactly is the link between stress and weight management?
While some stress, like exercise, is good for us, chronic or prolonged stress can have a negative impact on our health. When we experience stress, our adrenal glands produce adrenaline as well as a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol prompts glucose (energy source) to be released into the bloodstream providing us with the energy to combat the stressor i.e. fight or flight syndrome. As a result of increased glucose levels, we tend to crave more sugar which in turn can lead to blood sugar spikes/crashes, insulin resistance and ultimately fat storage. Excess cortisol production has also been shown to decrease metabolism.
Stress can also have an adverse effect on our sleep. A lack of sleep affects our hunger hormones and can further lead to increased cravings of unhealthy foods, notably processed carbohydrates. When we are stressed, we also tend to de-prioritize healthy habits such as exercise and we may also skip meals or gravitate to fast foods. For a deeper dive into the stress and weight management connection read more here. https://coparehealth.com/blog/stress-and-its-impact-on-weight-loss-and-overall-health/
Some of the most popular ways to reduce stress include exercise, meditation, listening to music and spending time outdoors. We also wanted to share some personal strategies that Copare health coaches employ to help them stress less and live calmer, healthier lives.
Sunshine and a Mindful Walk
“While I love a good run, when I really want to clear my head, I walk. Walking doesn’t require a great deal of exertion, which makes it very relaxing. Walking provides me with time to process whatever it is I am stressed about. In addition, just being outdoors in nature provides a therapeutic environment to enjoy. I love the sun, so a sunny day is ideal. I highly recommend it. Short or long, fast or slow, a walk will usually do the trick! “
Coach Jane Y
“Taking care of myself forces me to slow down and regroup. Getting my hair cut, a manicure, a pedicure, or a massage all help me to relax and lift my spirits. When you take care of yourself, you feel better about yourself and project that feeling onto others.”
“One of my newest ways to de-stress is drawing. Believe me, when I say I am not an artist – I can’t even draw a stick figure. However, I started drawing mandalas and pictures with a lot of repetitive lines. It really calms me, like meditation. Not only is this a de-stressor for me, but it’s a creation I made and I’m actually proud of myself. It makes me happy!”
Coach Jane C.
Journaling and Dancing It Out
“I love to write. The process of writing down my thoughts and feelings allows me to sort through my daily activities and begin to uncover any barriers that I may be struggling with. Just the act of writing helps me to prioritize my problems, name my fears and recognize potential triggers. I find that journaling provides an opportunity for positive self-talk and simple goal setting.
When I am feeling stressed or overwhelmed, I love to turn on my favorite music. I am old school, so I pull out a vinyl record from my collection and turn up the volume! Often, I will pick an upbeat song or two from a musical theatre soundtrack and dance it out. Without fail, by the end of the first song, I have a big smile on my face and I feel energized!”
“I read before I go to bed. Rather than expose my eyes to blue light from looking at a screen, which can affect sleep quality, I find that reading is a much more relaxing way to unwind before bed. At the same time, I learn something new, because I usually read about nutrition and wellness.”
“As a yoga instructor, that is always my go-to to relax and unwind. Just a few minutes every day helps me to settle my thoughts, allows me to focus on breathing and makes me more mindful. I also love to walk! I find walking, especially with a friend or family member helps relieve stress and is also a healthy way to catch up and socialize.”
Take a breath!
“People overlook the importance of our breath. When I am stressed, I tend to hold my breath and I can feel myself emotionally and physically tensing up all over. Taking 5 minutes to breathe deeply in and out helps me alleviate the built-up tension and much like laughter, shifts my train of thought. Also it is less likely for me to feel mentally stressed if my body feels relaxed.”
Nature and Simple Stretching/Yoga
“I am able to unwind and reset by sitting outside listening and watching the birds. We have hummingbird feeders all over our backyard. Connecting with nature is a great way to relax and unplug from daily life. I love to stretch my body too, whether it is yoga, barre or just simple stretches with breathing; this is very therapeutic to enjoy. Finding something daily to meditate on is very much needed in our busy lives.”
A good sweat!
For me, stress management is about releasing endorphins and simply tuning out. As an avid member of Orangetheory Fitness I regularly seek refuge at my local studio. Once a workout starts, there is no socializing, and no phones are in sight. The outside world disappears and I’m given an opportunity to challenge myself to my highest limits. I’m provided with a good sweat that releases toxins and boosts my immune system. Most importantly, I’m able to tap into endorphins (the feel good hormones) that our bodies produce to combat stress and support quality sleep. Keeping up a regular routine is key, too!
“Because I tend to be a perfectionist (about certain things), I have lots of conversations with myself. I tell myself that as long as my family is safe, happy and healthy all is well in my world. I also encourage myself to care a little bit less – this is my biggest challenge. Running definitely calms me and gives me the most clarity. ”