Do you feel like the busyness of modern life doesn’t stress you at all?
Or is your heart racing from the moment your alarm goes off?
Even if you feel like you’re on top of it, the sheer busyness of our modern world puts major stress on your body internally. Compare the number of things vying for your attention in a standard day with that of your grandparents...
Our bodies do evolve – but not at the rate that our lives have changed. Biochemically, genetically, we’re much the same as we were thousands of years ago. The only long-term stress we had to face back then was a food shortage. Floods, droughts, crop failures and war. Your overflowing inbox may not represent a life threatening food shortage, but unfortunately that’s what it registers as to your body.
When your body feels that there isn’t enough food, it drops your metabolism and holds onto its fat stores to keep you alive for longer. Elevated stress hormones can also signal your body to break down muscle and convert it to energy (further reducing your metabolism, reducing sugar storage sites and increasing fat storage). All of these internal changes make it very, very hard to lose weight and even to maintain your current body weight.
Weight loss isn’t just about calories in vs calories out. It’s becoming more and more important to address all aspects of health to encourage your body to move towards its healthiest weight. I've put my top 10 recommendations for lowering stress to improve weight loss below for you.
1. Don't diet
Dieting just reinforces to your body that there’s a food shortage. Diets are inherently unsustainable and as soon as you go back to eating normally, you’ll put any weight lost straight back on plus 10% in case of another famine in the future. Focus on eating for health, crowd out the not so healthy choices with fresh, bright, colourful foods that are minimally processed. When you eat nutrient dense foods you don’t need to count calories.
2. Time in nature
Being out in nature has an incredibly calming effect. The change of scenery, fresh air, greenery and change in energy of the environment really hit that reset switch. Try going barefoot for a little while on the sand or grass or going for a swim – some people find that ‘earthing’ (or grounding) has a noticeable impact on how relaxed they feel.
3. look at your perceptions
We can’t control what happens around us, but we can control how we react to it. Don’t give negative situations any more of your time and energy than they deserve. Try to minimise the stress that you let things cause when they’re out of your control.
4. reduce coffee
Coffee gives you an energy boost by stimulating your stress hormones! If you’re already in constant ‘fight or flight’ mode you’re just keeping yourself there with every coffee you drink. Ideally keep it to one cup per day (or work towards this) and keep it in the morning. Afternoon coffees start to mess with your natural cortisol rhythm and can throw out your sleep cycles and sleep quality.
Sleep is one of the best chances our body gets to rest and repair. If you’re not getting enough, or its of low quality – you’re more likely to stay in ‘fight or flight’ mode. Every hour of sleep you get before 12am is equal to 2 hours of sleep after midnight (your hormones are starting to wake you and you're not resting anywhere near as much).
If you struggle to switch your mind off, keep a note pad beside your bed. If its work thoughts, send yourself an email so you’ll see it first thing tomorrow. If you can’t shut down I recommend looking into sleep hygiene (its not about cleanliness, more about a sleep routine). Some of the main points are switching off technology at least an hour before bed, darkening the rooms, maybe have a shower or a cup of sleep tea, or read if that helps.
6. deep breathing
Nerves that connect with your lungs register the speed and depth of your breaths. If they’re short and shallow, it signals you’re stressed and in danger. If your breath is slow and deep, those nerves deliver the message straight to your brain that you’re safe and can move from ‘fight or flight’ to ‘rest and repair’.
Do this often! Tie it to another habit so you don’t forget (something that happens regularly throughout your day).
7. stop taking on more responsibilities
Saying ‘no’ doesn’t make you a bad person. Don’t feel guilty. You need to prioritise self-care because no one else can do that for you.
One of my favourite analogies is that self-care is just like the safety message you get on a flight. You have to put your oxygen mask on before helping those around you.
8. Herbal support
Sometimes you just need a helping hand. There are some amazing herbs to help minimise the toll that stress and busyness has on your body. These should always be used in conjunction with lifestyle measures to reduce your stress, rather than in place of them.
As a naturopath, herbal support is something I can assist my HYPOXI clients with. I’d encourage you to see a professional rather than picking something off the shelf of a store as the quality and blends can vary widely.
9. Schedule time out
If you think you don’t have time for this, you need it even more! Even 10 minutes in the morning or at lunch can make a huge difference. Make a cup of tea, go outside for air, do some stretches. Anything to break you away from your to-do list.
Look at how you use your time - social media, emails, phone games, mindless TV. Sometimes these things can be nourishing, but often they’re a distraction rather than providing a chance to fully switch off and relax.
10. Gentle exercise
Gentle movement (walking, yoga, pilates, cycling, tai chi, etc.) helps to get you breathing deeply and slowly. It also changes your focus and environment to give you a mental break. Even a 10 minute lap around the block can work wonders.
If you’re doing lots of intense activity you may need to reign it back. This surprises a lot of my clients. High intensity exercise is great for improving your fitness levels, but due to the intensity – it acts as a short term stress on your body. If you’re already stressed it will keep you in ‘fight or flight’ mode. It can be hard, especially if you’ve come to rely on the intense exercise as stress relief, but try swapping it for a calming activity like those mentioned above. You don’t have to give it up completely, but monitor your stress levels and maybe cut back to 1 or 2 intense sessions per week, or shorten the duration of the session.
If you’re looking for a new way to reach your weight loss goals – HYPOXI may be the answer. HYPOXI combines low-impact, easy exercise with gentle vacuum technology to improve circulation and target your problem areas. 30 minute sessions, 2-3 times a week in our private studio environment combined with diet and lifestyle support will keep you on track, even when life gets busy.
If you’d like to find out more about HYPOXI, you’re welcome to register for a free trial below.