Cortisol (the "Stress Hormone")
Relaxing days seem to be few and far between at this time in my life. I feel as though I'm constantly on the move or getting ready to go (which in my case can feel like an Olympic event). Although my days feels busy and hectic, my heart and my life are full. Being busy doesn't necessarily mean I have to be stressed. But let's be honest, it's a fine line between balancing it all and being a crazed stress ball. We all have days of feeling stressed, and that's okay. With all the important roles we play as women, (employees, moms, grandmas, chefs, chauffeurs, maids, nannies and everything in between), it's bound to happen. But when there is chronic stress day in and day out of your every day life, it will start affecting your body physically.
Cortisol is the hormone that kicks in when you are under major stress. One stressful day here and there probably isn't going to do a whole lot, but big time stresses day in and day out are going to get that Cortisol flowing. Cortisol is a necessary hormone and is what the body produces in a "fight or flight" situation. It gives a quick burst of energy, decrease in any pain, heightened memory and a burst of increased immune defense.
However, in our society, we have become so busy, so pressured and so crazed that we are often times affected by chronic stress. When we are stressed for the long haul, day in and day out, we are exposed to the long term affects of cortisol production. This is when the cortisol hormone can get ugly. It kicks our appetite into full force, making us hungry. Often times it makes us hungry for simple carb, high sugar snacks that send our blood sugar soaring. Which gives us a high, a crash and wanting more of the same sugary, carb-loaded food. It's a vicious cycle.
Cortisol also holds onto what we call "stress fat." This is the white fat that is stored deep in our belly tissue that is often times the toughest to get rid of. Our body gets the message from the cortisol that we need that fat to survive -- we are in fight or flight mode -- store everything you get as MORE fat. Ew. Definitely not what you want when you're working hard to rid yourself of those unwanted pounds.
8 WAYS TO HELP YOURSELF RELAX
Easier said than done, right? Especially when you're trying to lose weight and that scale isn't budging. Then it's easy to stress over that. But if we can just chill out a little bit and stop feeling so pressured in our every day life, our bodies won't hold on to that deep tissue white fat and life in general will feel just a little bit better.
Where is it that you are the most stressed out? Is it at work, in the kitchen, driving to work in the morning? It's been suggested that seeing a picture of something that gives you great joy and makes you feel calm and at peace can help. Maybe it's a picture from a vacation, or a picture of your kids or your dog. Make sure those pictures are in sight in your "stress" spots. Our eyes contribute to 80% of the stimulation in the world around us; so positive imagery is a great way to calm those nerves.
I have a baby and a toddler, so believe me when I understand that the hardest thing sometimes is to get a good night of sleep. But, sleep is one of the most important parts of relieving your body of stress, not to mention sleep has a multitude of benefits that aid in weight loss. Basically your body recharges when you are sleeping. Your mind organizes the memories and incidents from the day and discards information that isn't important. When you are well rested you are more clear-headed, alert and your memory is sharper. This means you can handle tough situations with more clarity and grace (and less stress!)
Laughing is not only good for your soul, it's good for your body. Laughter will trigger the production of endorphins in your body, which in turn relaxes your blood vessels and increase blood flow, causing an upward spiral of good feelings. And let's be honest, laughing is fun. I love a funny movie, tv show or even a podcast that keeps it light and positive. Although currently my favorite way to get my giggles is listening to my three-nager inform me about anything from her daily plans to reasons the grass is green.
This could be one of my most used stress-relievers and day-starters. Positive affirmations are phrases you repeat aloud to yourself in the mirror. I have a list I keep and I choose one to repeat to myself in the morning. Some of my favorite positive affirmations are:
I choose to create a joyful story in THIS moment.
I say that today is a perfect day.
I am responsible for my thoughts, my beliefs, and my actions. Today I choose to be happy and at peace.
Repeating these words to yourself and truly believing them will set the tone for your day. Your brain will start believing what you are feeding it and you really will start to enjoy peace and calm during stressful moments.
Take a Walk
Leisurely walking has just as many benefits as a power walk when it comes to stress relief. A relaxing walk allows your mind to disconnect from the stressful situations you may be in the midst of. It can also cause your mind to wander, which may give you new insight or a more positive outlook on tough moments you're trying to handle. Basically it helps put your mind in a meditative state. Walking also boosts your energy and fights fatigue, which can give you a renewed sense or calmness and peace.
Massage Therapy for Hands
Massage therapy can play a part in reducing your stress levels as well. Specifically massaging your hand between your thumb and index finger. This motion releases endorphins that calms the nervous system and combats anxiety related to physical and emotional stress. It's a quick and easy useful tool that you can use easily when you feel your anxiety levels increasing. And is there really a better excuse to go get a massage? They are good for your health, after all.
Time to Play
Playing is not just for the kids. Hobbies and spending time doing the things you love give you a healthy disconnect to the pressures of daily life. Enjoyable activities force our brain to disengage from the situations that cause us stress and anxiety. They force us to escape. Having time to do something you enjoy also sends those endorphins flowing, which as we have learned lowers the body's production of cortisol and keeps feelings of stress at bay. Not to mention, playing and hobbies are fun.
Enjoying the life you have and keeping a positive outlook on most situations is the key to getting rid of that unwanted stress. Once you change your mindset, often times a once high-anxiety situation can feel like a whole new peaceful endeavor.
Amanda Klecker, All Day Activewear