The term “stress” is short for distress, a word derived from Latin that means “to draw or pull apart.” I don’t know about you but when I feel stressed that is exactly how I feel! Like I’m being pulled apart from all sides. Stress is pervasive, universal, and a very real part of the weight loss journey. So, let’s take a look at stress; how we can minimize it, manage it, and build resilience to it in order to feel less like we’re being pulled apart and more like we’re in control.
First, it’s important to understand that stress management is not about adding something else to your life that you don’t have time for. Stress management is about creating healthy habits where the reward is relaxation and reduced stress. It’s a way of life, not a remedy. So, what are some ways to minimize stress on the weight loss journey? There are three steps:
- Anticipate challenges
- Create action plans
- Solve problems
We all know that we will experience stress so it is better to anticipate those stressful situations that will challenge us rather than hope that we won’t experience them. Hope is not an effective strategy. Perhaps you experience a lot of stress at your job, or in your relationships; identify those people, places, and things that create challenges. Once you’ve identified these, next create action plans for dealing with them. For example, if you know that the holidays are an especially stressful time for you then be sure to reach out for help, get support, and share your feelings with others during that time. This is how you solve the problem of stress before it takes over and pulls you apart.
Second, for many people, stress-eating is a major challenge. It’s important to understand that stress-eating is a habit just like any other habit. There is a cue (stress), a craving (for comfort foods), a routine (stress-eat), and a reward (stress relief). Stress-eating is all about temporarily relieving stress. Therefore, in order to change this habit, you must find non-food ways to feel relief.
So, how can you feel relief without reaching for your favorite comfort foods? Here are some examples that have worked for others:
- Share your feelings with a supportive friend or family member.
- Engage in loving touch with a loved one; e.g. get a hand massage from your spouse.
- There is no better stress reliever! My go-to is yoga.
- Maybe you’re stressed because you’re sleep deprived! Grab a 20 min. nap a feel energized.
- Get out in nature. The restorative and stress-relieving power of nature is dramatic.
- Play, have fun, listen to music, dance… Do I really need to convince you to have more fun?!
- Embrace the stress. We can reframe our thoughts about stress from a negative to a positive if we view it as activating and motivating in order to overcome challenges.
Third, effective and habitual relaxation is an antidote to stress. Notice I said relaxation should be both effective and habitual. Again, we don’t want to add something else to your life that you don’t have time for. Instead, relaxation is about developing a way of life that combats the effects of stress. Let’s first talk about effective relaxation. Relaxation requires these 4 elements:
- A quiet environment
- A comfortable position
- An internal focus
- A feeling of “letting go”
That means TV is a bad option for relaxation. Better options include meditation, prayer, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, and diaphragmatic (i.e. belly) breathing. Set aside 5-10 minutes per day to accomplish one of these (or another of your choosing) relaxation techniques. Maybe for you, 5 minutes of prayer / meditation first thing in the morning would work. Or perhaps, engaging in progressive muscle relaxation right before you got to sleep at night would work better. You could even sneak in some diaphragmatic breathing throughout your work day. As long as you include the 4 elements required for relaxation and you make it a habit you will reap the rewards of relaxation!
Finally, you can build up a resilience to stress. This means that you can create a life in which stress impacts you less. Stressful events still occur but they will have less influence over you. You can be in control. So, how can you build resilience to stress? Develop and maintain good relationships with close family members, friends, and others. Develop a mindset where crises or stressful events are not seen as unbearable problems but instead as challenges that will make you stronger. Develop realistic goals and move towards them. Develop healthy habits taking care of one’s mind and body, exercising regularly, paying attention to one’s own needs and feelings.
Stress can have a significant impact on our lives and our weight loss journey. However, you can learn how to minimize it, manage it, and build resilience to it in order to feel less like you’re being pulled apart and more like you’re in control. And remember, if stress burned calories we’d all look like supermodels so instead do something that works like building a healthy life.
Did you know Nick Frye did a Facebook Live video on his top stress management tips? Watch it below!