“I don’t have time to exercise, to spend time planning healthy menus, or to get 8 hours of sleep!”
Yes, I know. However, if step one to stress management is mastering your mindset (see last week’s post), step two is tending to your physical health.
Doing so may be easier than you think! (Keep reading and I will show you how small changes can make big differences.)
First, though, let’s review the basic ways that health affects your mood and stress:
Exercise: Did you know that psychologists often recommend exercise as a natural remedy for anxiety and depression? The body releases endorphins during exercise which increases a sense of well-being. Exercise also helps decrease the stress hormone, cortisol, and improves levels of serotonin, another important neurotransmitter related to mood.
Diet: Under stress, many of us engage in emotional over-eating. Typically, we go for comfort foods like carbs, fast foods, and sweets. Sugars provide a quick pick me up followed by a drop in blood sugar, leaving us feeling even more tired. In fact, studies show a link between refined sugars and carbs with depression.
Sleep: Inadequate sleep leads to lowered metabolism as well as increased food cravings. It can also cause fatigue, mental fog, and irritability. A good night’s sleep helps revitalize the body and keeps immune function healthy.
When stressed, we skip the exercise, skimp on sleep to save time while grabbing some fast food, carbs, or chocolate for quick energy and relief. The result: even greater stress!
Right about now you are probably thinking, “Rest, eat right, work out – nothing new there! Besides, all of that is easier said than done!”
You are right. Who do many fail in this area? The all or nothing approach!
Thinking you have to start a whole new gym regimen or launch a total diet plan sounds unrealistic. Often it is.
Better to make small changes to your lifestyle that you can maintain than to make big changes that you end up quitting down the road.
For example, I made two easy lifestyle changes last year. I decided to buy pre-packaged cut up vegetables and hummus regularly and keep them at work to snack on. Second, I changed my gym membership to a more conveniently located gym with classes that fit my schedule better. These two simple changes helped me significantly improve my diet and exercise for the past year!
So, when under stress make small changes to move toward adequate rest, healthy snacks, and exercise that will actually counteract the effects of stress on your body and mind.