Stress touches us all from time to time but for some people, coping with high stress levels is a daily battle and can have a negative impact on how you feel, on your performance and your long term health. So learning to cope with stress can be a vital tool in your box.
We need good stress to give us energy and motivation to complete certain tasks, but bad stress is the one we need to avoid. When your stress levels are consistently high, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. This hormone gives us a ‘fight or flight’ response, so in times of emergency we have a rush of energy to either fight a tiger or run away from it. But we aren’t faced with tigers anymore, so we don't have the opportunity to use that cortisol. Instead, that tiger now comes in the form of annoying bosses, demanding family members, work deadlines and traffic jams.
There are several problems with high levels of cortisol. One is the demand which it puts on your adrenal glands to constantly secrete this hormone. This is hard work for your body and leads to adrenal fatigue - that feeling where you’re exhausted and like a zombie all day long. Another problem is the effect that cortisol has on weight gain. It encourages your body to store fat around your abdominal area, so stressed individuals will often struggle to lose that unwanted belly fat.
When your body is in a constant state of stress (physical or mental), your elevated cortisol levels encourage your body to break down it’s stored energy into your blood stream, so your blood sugar levels remain high throughout the day. With your blood sugar levels peaking on a regular basis, this is similar to eating high sugar foods, and so your body behaves in much the same way, storing fat around the areas we want it the least. If this is sounding familiar, let’s look at some ways of reducing your stress levels.
Top tips for reducing stress levels…
Take up yoga or meditation
Get to bed by 10pm and aim for 7-9 hours sleep
Try slow deep breathing in times of stress (3 secs in, 6 secs out)
Get out for a walk in your lunch hour