Stress seems to be a way of life for most of us, but it can wreak havoc on our health. Those who suffer chronic stress get sick more often, due to the negative effects on their immune systems. Stress can also affect your mental health by causing anxiety and depression. And it can even affect your long-term health by causing weight gain and all the medical issues commonly associated with excess body weight.
To prevent stress from sabotaging your weight loss goals, try these stress reduction techniques:
Journal. Keep a journal, and within a few weeks you will probably be able to identify the sources of your stress. Some will be unavoidable, but others may be things you can reduce or cut out of your life. If unavoidable factors such as children or coworkers are causing you stress, at least now you have identified the patterns and you can take further steps to address problems effectively.
Breathe. You could think of breathing techniques as stress release. When you experience a stressful situation, even just three minutes of deep, focused breathing can kick anxiety to the curb.
Just say no. Many people inadvertently cause their own stress by taking on more than they can really handle. Learn to say no to extra work, volunteer positions, social obligations, or anything else that will create an unrealistic workload for you. You are not a bad person for making your own mental health a high priority.
Take control over stress factors. If the evening news stresses or depresses you, turn off the TV or leave the room. If crowds make you anxious, do your shopping online during the holidays and back-to-school rush. If traffic gives you road rage, leave a few minutes earlier in the morning and take a longer, but less populated, route.
Avoid arguments. For the most part, you probably know your stress triggers when it comes to arguments. If it’s religion, politics, or even just the household finances, limit the amount of time you give those topics.
Laugh. There’s a reason they say laughter is the best medicine! It releases stress and even boosts your immune system. Find ways to work humor into your daily life.
Learn the difference between needs and wants. There are plenty of things we all need to do, such as go to work, shop for groceries, and take kids to school. Other obligations are often things people want us to do for them – the kids want you to make cupcakes tonight, or your spouse wants you to attend that party this weekend. Move the needs to the top of your schedule, and fit in “wants” only when they’re realistic for you.
Take time for yourself every day. You need time alone every day in order to recharge your batteries. Some days you may be able to fit in an hour of exercise. Other days it may be ten minutes listening to soothing music alone. The point is to take whatever time you can manage each day, and make it count by doing something that relaxes you.
Meditate. One of those things you can do by yourself each day is meditation. Learn meditation techniques and practice them each day. You may find it helpful to get up early in the morning, before the rest of the household, and take fifteen minutes or so to focus on clearing your mind. Or, if stress seems to pile up toward the end of the day, meditating before bedtime can help you release the stress and go to bed feeling more relaxed.