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Archive for Monday, October 8, 2012

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As I See Fit: Don’t let stress bust progress

October 8, 2012

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Have you heard anything new lately? Have you been listening to your colleagues and co-workers, to your friends and to your significant other?

If you have been, then you surely know what the latest buzz word on the street is. Yes, it’s that dreaded “S” word. As in stress. We all have it, and we are all too familiar with it.

Lately, it seems as though everyone I know is using that word an awful lot to describe many different situations and scenarios.

Even my 6-year-old used it recently, albeit incorrectly. “Sit still!” I told him as he was trying to do a handstand in his chair while eating breakfast (yes, really). And do you know what he said to me? He said, “I can’t, Mama. I’m trying to get my stress out!”

And while that is funny now, it gave me pause for two distinct reasons. One, the fact that he knows the word stress at age 6 is a bit disconcerting. And secondly, the little minion had a valid point. He was trying to move in order to release his energy.

It’s a proven fact that physical activity is a prime factor in stress reduction and tension release. And it’s also a proven fact that too many of the stressed out people aren’t doing anything about it.

We all know that stress comes in many different ways and outlets and that it often increases right about this time of the year, what with the stores putting up holiday decorations the first week in October and other such nonsense.

Things are getting hectic at home and at work, and as usual there is just no time to get everything done that we need to do.

The first thing to become compromised is our eating habits. Healthy and clean eating tend to take a back seat to fast food meals on the run and nutritional nightmares.

The second thing to fall by the wayside is physical activity. Our workouts decrease in time and intensity, and we start to lose all of the ground that we’ve gained. Our endless to-do lists increase, and as a result, that cuts into personal time that had been used to exercise our bodies and our minds.

The worst thing about all of this is that you will lose all of the ground you have gained thus far, and when your stress levels rise, it wreaks havoc with your metabolism.

Stress inhibits your body’s ability to burn carbs, fats and protein effectively. It can cause an outpouring of the primary stress hormone cortisol, which is key for a normal metabolic rate, proper digestion and absorption of foods. If there are excess amounts, our bodies are likely to break down fat and break down muscle mass. Elevated cortisol levels can affect our thyroid gland, which is essential for keeping your metabolism in line, resulting in fat accumulation and eventual muscle loss.

If you are always stressed out, there is an excellent chance that your efforts in the gym or in your daily workout are not being utilized to their fullest potential, and thus, you are not seeing the results that you are working so hard to achieve.

To make matters worse, chronically elevated cortisol levels are thought to be associated with a host of health problems, such as and accumulation of heart-damaging belly fat, increased ghrelin (the “eat more” hormone), poor sleep, lack of sex drive and poor athletic performance.

Whew. My cortisol levels are shooting up just from writing that! So, never one to want to leave the party on a down note, here are some very practical ways for us to save our sanity and find some balance.

  • Relax. Try meditation, Pilates, yoga or visualization as coping mechanisms for stress.
  • Sleep more. I know, I know. But just try to go to bed half an hour earlier than you are now.
  • Eat well. Make good choices. If you eat well, you will feel better. I promise.
  • Give yourself a “technology time-out” and step away from your phone, your email and your computer. Take a walk, read a book, or simply sit still and breathe. Try to be in the moment.
  • Laugh. Humor is underrated. It takes the edge off, and it’s hard to feel stressed out when you are laughing. So grab your best friend, laugh with your children and save time for some fun.

— Jennifer Osborn can be reached at go@ljworld.com.

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