Stress is something everyone experiences. Some of us have more of it than others and we all know that when we have too much stress for too long it can be bad for our health. While reducing stress is always the best solution, it isn’t always possible which is why learning to manage whatever level of stress you are under is what really matters.
April is National Stress Awareness Month and since stress eating is a real problem for many people, we thought this provided a great opportunity to talk about how stress and food can combine in unhealthy ways. Unfortunately, stress is one of the most common causes of emotional eating, overeating, and unexpected weight gain. There are several reasons for this. Research has shown that eating the kinds of foods we crave when we are stressed, those that are high in carbohydrates, sugars, and fats, causes a chemical reaction in the body that produces more serotonin, the chemical that makes you feel good. Additionally, when we have high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, our body can interpret that as a sign that we are living through a famine. This can trigger a variety of biological processes that make us crave foods that we shouldn’t eat, eat more than we need, and store more of what we eat as fat.
So, how can you fight back and avoid succumbing to stress eating? Here are 5 ways to better manage your stress that you can do instead of stress eating that will decrease your stress without increasing your waistline.
1. Relieve the Pressure
When our stress level is high we can sometimes feel the pressure building within us making it seem like we are a volcano getting ready to explode. Alleviate that pressure by doing things that help disperse some of the pent up energy stress can cause like playing loud music, screaming (in private, of course), or doing something active.
Just like a pressure cooker on a stove, sometimes you just need to let some of your stress out and venting to a friend or loved one can be a great way to do this.
3. Take a Break
Sometimes stress can leave us stuck, unable to do anything else until the situation that is causing the stress is resolved. Unfortunately, this is not always the best way to deal with a stressful situation. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to remove yourself from the situation for as little as a few minutes. Sometimes just a change of scenery can have an immediate stress relieving effect.
Stress has a significant impact on your body and can cause tension to build up in your muscles leaving you feeling tight and achy. Taking even 5 minutes to stretch out your major muscle groups can have a lasting impact on your stress level.
5. Get Some Sleep
Unfortunately, one of the things we often need the most when our stress level is high is the thing we are least likely to allow ourselves to get – enough sleep. Sleep is a powerful weapon against stress and it can also help keep you from gaining weight. For this reason, if there is one thing you do this month to try and keep a handle on your stress, it should be committing to getting a good night sleep.