Summer of Self-Care: Stress

Taking care of yourself is a must. If we aren’t taking care of our bodies properly then we’re neglecting our overall health. Your body operates off four pillars: sleep, stress, nutrition, and exercise. All four of these facets of health help drive sustainable results for a healthy lifestyle. This summer, we will highlight one of these four pillars every month and provide some helpful tips and tricks through our new Summer of Self-Care series. Self-care is more than just doing things that help how we feel and look externally, it starts with how we establish and maintain our health internally.

To introduce Summer of Self-Care, we will first highlight the topic of stress. Focusing on your health and nutrition is crucial, but did you know it creates another form of stress on the body? Restriction, exercise, and even just tracking food all bring a type of stress. The higher your level of stress the more physical effects it will cause to your body. Here are a few to look out for!

Stress can cause emotional eating as a temporary relief. When our bodies are under a lot of stress we often lean towards ‘comfort foods’ high in sugar and carbs, which don’t always jive with our proper macro targets. These foods can release the dopamine our brains want, but at the cost of actual nutritional value.

Stress makes us rush. Typically you can see a high correlation between stress and lack of time. At that point, life can become a balancing act where some things (food most of the time) shift to “whatever’s easiest.” We find it harder to plan meals within our diet, instead, we grab something quick and easy, like fast food. We skip meals and expect a cup of coffee or an energy drink to get us through. We stop fueling our bodies properly, causing us to over eat and make poor decisions with food selection and portion control. 

Stress can also cause us to neglect things that our bodies need, specifically exercise and sleep. When we’re stressed we don’t exercise as much as we should. Our motivation becomes increasingly limited because we don’t have time, or we’re just too tired to get up and get active. Low amounts of physical activity slow down our metabolism and our caloric burn rate, both of which strongly contribute to weight gain. Our bodies also need sleep to recover, it helps give us the energy we need to function. We sleep less when we’re stressed. When we don't sleep well, our body's needs change, and will actually require more food to help fuel the recovery we missed. When energy gets low, our cortisol levels get high and it’s easier to give into those sugar cravings and harder to make smart, healthy food decisions.  

Everyone falls victim to stress. But with some simple tips and tricks you can help combat stress and make your health goals a priority! 

  • Take a 10 minute walk (wherever you can!) BUT do it without your phone or headphones. Constantly consuming information like a podcast or music is not a stress reliever. Give yourself some time to enjoy the quiet.
  • Turn off the TV and put the phone away 20 minutes before bed! You will not sleep well with large amounts of screen time right before bed. Give your brain time to relax and recover before you fall asleep. 
  • Drink water! Staying hydrated keeps inflammation in the body down. Stress can also wreak havoc on our skin and water is one of the best things you can give your skin and body! Staying hydrated can help with energy levels, metabolism function, and overall health.
  • Find five minutes (three to four times a week) where you go into a dark spot, turn your notifications off, and set a timer. Just sit and breathe for those five minutes. Let your body completely relax and take a full break from everything. 
  • Keep healthy food accessible! Results are not accidental. If you fail to plan, you will not succeed. Take the time to buy some healthy (pre-cooked, if needed) options to keep in the fridge and pantry so when you're short on time or too tired to cook, you have the smart options available. This will make you less likely to choose fast food! 
  • Put down your phone while eating. You take less care in deciding what and how much you eat when distracted by your phone or TV. That constant intake of information can also increase your stress levels, leading to eating out of emotion rather than simply refueling what you depleted.
  • Find healthy swaps or careful limits for those comfort foods you desire when stress is high. There's often nothing wrong with the food we like to snack on, as long as we can control the amount we eat. For example, instead of a whole bottle of wine at night, have one glass with a cup of berries. Instead of a pint of ice cream, make a high protein smoothie. It's easier to limit yourself when you eat food with appropriate nutrients, like protein and fruit. It's harder to stop yourself from overeating less nutrient-dense items, like wine and ice cream.

While no perfect cure for stress exists, managing it can significantly help you grow in your journey and see better results! If you haven’t already, try out some of these tips and let us know how it goes!

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