How do you handle stress on the job? For me, I’d take a walk…to the nearby vending machine. Cans of Coke or the occasional bag of Doritos were my de-stressor poisons. Because my job was 90% stress, it wasn’t uncommon for me to drink 5-6 cans of soda a day. Yikes! It was a temporary crutch that added on pounds.
While you’re stressing about your job or paying down debt, add weight gain to your stress list. Yep, stressing-out actually increases your appetite. For me, I never make good food choices when I’m stressing.
So how, exactly, does stress make you fat?
It all comes down to three hormones — adrenalin, norepinephrine and cortisol. When our distant ancestors experienced stress it was usually because a lion was chasing them (or something equally terrifying). These three help with fight-or-flight scenarios to survive danger. Adrenalin and norepinephrine actually decrease appetite, but only for a short while. However, cortisol is released later and its purpose is to help replenish your body. See, our ancestors spent a lot of energy running away or fighting for survival. Cortisol makes us hungry to recharge our batteries for the next fight-or-flight stressors. Also, cortisol lasts a lot longer than the other two hormones. So if you’re constantly stressing (because of lions), this puppy continually courses through your veins, and that can spell trouble for any diet.
The problem for us? The survival instinct is still there — sans lions — and when it latches onto something (office politics, midlife crisis, someone cutting us off in traffic), fight-or-flight kicks in and gives us the excuse to pig out.
Alternatives To Food
I just found out that April is National Stress Awareness Month. It’s a good time to think about healthier alternatives than carbs and sugar to help you de-stress.
So how do I deal with stress? I mean, besides quitting my job…
- Go For A Walk or Run – Anytime I start feeling the pressure build, I slip on my running shoes and hit the road. All it takes is 30 minutes and I feel great. Exercise is a great way to clear my mind so and come up with a solution to any problem that’s freaking me out.
- Keep The Focus On The Here And Now – This was a tough one for me. It’s so easy to beat yourself up for something in the past or freak out about the future. All that does is keep you focused on disappointment or fear. By living in the moment, I gain much needed perspective, and know I’m only responsible for the things I can actually control.
- Cat Videos! — That’s right, I watch cat videos on YouTube. If cats are not your thing, that’s fine. But find anything funny on YouTube. A good laugh is the mortal enemy of stress. You need to take time out of your day for a good laugh.
- Yoga — I was never a big fan of the meditation part of yoga until I realized how relaxed I felt afterwards. It’s true when they say a “still mind is a stress-free mind.”
- #WYCWYC! – Roni’s Weigh started the #WYCWYC (what-you-can-when-you-can) challenge. The idea is to do one positive or active thing each day. While I started doing #WYCWYC to squeeze in a workout, it actually worked to help keep things in perspective and my stress to a minimum. I no longer freak out if I run out of hours in a day. I now focus on doing what I can, when I can, in my busy day.
Looking at my list, what I’m really proud of is that food didn’t make the list. It’s taken years, but I finally accepted that food fuels my body. I no longer use it as a crutch to make me feel good. All that does is pack on the pounds. That shift in thinking was also a great de-stressor.
How do you handle stress?