Very often my clients who struggle with weight, particularly belly fat, are actually suffering from over-stressing rather than overeating. Stress wreaks havoc on the mind and body. Psychological stress is associated with greater risk for depression, heart disease and infectious diseases. Until now, it has not been clear exactly how stress influences disease and health. A research team has found that psychological stress promotes systemic inflammation throughout the body (via the stress hormone cortisol), and that inflammation can promote the development and progression of illness and disease. Systemic inflammation taxes immune activity everywhere in the body. If your immune system is overworked, it means repair and maintenance tasks (like fending off the common cold, healing that stubborn tendonitis, or clearing plaque from your arteries) isn't happening very well if at all.
So, are you a stress junkie? If the following sounds like you, then ya, you are.
- Are you always on tight deadlines, multi-tasking within an inch of your life or creating ridiculous schedules for yourself?
- Are you a perfectionist in everything you do and obsess when it doesn’t really matter?
- Are you an inattentive listener, checking email, paying bills or cleaning while on the phone?
- Are you constantly worrying about “what if,” stuck in an endless loop of dreaming up worst-case scenarios?
- Do you rush everywhere, all the time, because there are other things elsewhere you should be doing?
- Have you lost all sense of patience, losing your cool when faced with even a minor telephone hold, appointment delay or grocery store line?
- Are you always saying, “Things will calm down soon,” but they never, ever do?
- Does the idea of a restorative yoga class, meditation or sitting quietly for 15 minutes make you want to crawl out of your skin?
- If you answered “yes” to one or more of those questions… you may be a stress junkie.
Okay, So What to do about your stress addiction?
Start with your schedule. If you feel like you have zero time for yourself, I suggest you take a closer look at all the things you’re saying yes to. Be ruthless with your life editing - bad friends, long commutes to optional events, working out somewhere that requires leaving the house, hours of TV watching, going out all the time, grocery shopping for yourself (who doesn’t have Amazon Fresh now?) and the list goes on. Just stop the overcommitting. You don’t HAVE to do all these things, you’re simply choosing to.
Drop the perfectionism stuff. You’re fooling no one. I went a long time without hosting dinners at my house because I tried so freaking hard to be perfect at it and it was so incredibly stressful that I would never enjoy myself. So I stopped hosting altogether. Then a few months ago, I decided to have a bunch of girlfriends over for a potluck (first step in reducing the anxiety is not to cook everything yourself), but I pre-warned them that none of my plates match, there would be no table decor and everyone must wear yoga pants. Can I just tell you how much fun we had???
Perfectionism isn’t fun. Yoga pants, girlfriends and wine… now that’s fun.
Make a commitment to doing something to manage the stress - walk, yoga, meditation, avoid high intensity exercise, ditch coffee and other stimulants, sleep more, avoid the news, avoid political conversations (so avoid Facebook), sing in shower, listen to Tarah Brach’s podcasts, start reading real,old-school paperback books, go on vacation…. do what makes you less stressed. I can’t say any of these are the magic pill, but I suggest you try what appeals to you.
For me, yoga once a week, hiking with a friend and just playing with my dogs seems to make me less insane. What works for you?
Caren is a certified yoga teacher, fitness instructor and author of The Fit Habit. Here she shares simple, low carb recipes, quick home workout ideas and practical ways to foster mind + body wellness.