How Does Stress Factor In?
I fully believe that a healthy lifestyle – that feeling GOOD – is about more than just eating well and working out. I think that sleep also factors in. As well as sunlight (aka vitamin D).
And so does stress for that matter.
Actually I think STRESS has as much to do with a healthy lifestyle and achieving your diet and exercise goals as eating clean and working out do.
In many cases, it may be the reason you HAVEN’T hit your goals yet.
Stress can negatively impact your healthy lifestyle in numerous ways:
- Being stressed out can cause you to eat when you aren’t hungry. It can make you THINK you are hungry when, in fact, you aren’t.
- The hormone cortisol is released when you are stressed. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone and can actually hinder muscle and strength gains. It has also been linked with a build up of abdominal fat.
- Cortisol also interferes with your metabolic processes, causing your metabolism to slow down.
- Stress drains our self-control, which makes it harder to force ourselves to eat well and workout if those things aren’t already habit.
- When we are stressed, we have a harder time sticking to new routines and habits. If we are trying to create new lifestyle habits, those will likely be the first things to be dropped when we are low on self-control..
- Stress causes us to feel more fatigued, which makes us less likely to expend energy cooking and/or working out even though working out and eating well may actually help our stress levels.
Stress itself not only causes changes in the body, which can hinder you from hitting your health and fitness goals, but also causes you to not care about your goals…at least for the moment (which then leads to a bad cycle of giving up, getting frustrated, gaining more weight or moving farther from your goals, trying to start again and repeating the whole process over).
But the problem is…Controlling your stress isn’t as simple as eating well or going in to workout.
Controlling your stress has a lot to do with recognizing that your self-control isn’t infinite.
I’ve mentioned before that your self-control is like a gas tank. Every time you have to stop yourself from eating that treat you want or not yelling at that person who is being a jerk to you, you withdraw a little from that gas tank.
And if you withdraw too much without recharging, something is going to have to give. And as I’ve mentioned before, that is usually the diet and exercise program.
So how do we keep our self-control tank fuller and our stress level lower.
We realize that we can’t do everything all at once!
I know that is an earth-shattering statement…NOT…but it is the truth.
I’ve thought a lot about this over the past few months as I’ve planned my wedding and continued to work hard to build my business. I’ve thought about this as I’ve performed a fine balancing act of work, wedding, social life, diet and exercise.
I’ve thought about this as I’ve considered how many brides I’ve talked to claim they can’t keep up with their diet and exercise program because of the stress of wedding planning.
Let me just take a second now to say…I’m an extremely type A person. I love lists. LOVE lists. I love planning and having everything mapped out.
But there are lots of things in daily life that you can’t plan for. And it is those unplanned events that tend to stress us out and drain our self-control so much that we drop the ball on at least one of the things we plan to do (and generally that is the thing we deem the least important…aka generally diet and exercise).
So then how do you keep your self-control full if you can’t plan for certain events?
By planning for what you know!
This may seem obvious, but I can’t tell you how many people DON’T take advantage and plan out what they can.
No…I can’t plan for a whole new group of people to randomly want a bootcamp at a time of day when I usually do other work. No…I can’t plan for a friend to need a babysitter last-minute for 7 hours on a day when I planned to finish up everything for the wedding.
No…I couldn’t plan for a whole bunch of the stressors that happened over the last month.
But there were a lot of different things that I could plan out – that I did plan out.
And those plans kept me on track even when it felt like my self-control hit empty for a second. Those plans kept me from having to stress about daily tasks, about my diet and exercise program, which in turned allowed me to stay constant even when I felt drained.
Shoot those plans, in many cases, even helped refuel me because I didn’t have to THINK about what to do when it came to many daily events.
Let’s face it…when you have a PLAN, you know what you have to do to hit your goal. You have something telling you what to do and something holding you accountable.
Not having to think and having something holding you accountable is powerful stuff. It is key if you want to hit your goals.
Not having to think about what you need to do alleviates stress because it lessens the number of decisions we have to make in a day, which is especially helpful when we are super busy and unforeseen decisions and problems arise.
And accountability…I find that when I know what I’m supposed to do, my self-control is strengthened. I don’t want to go against what I’m supposed to do especially if it is written down and I can see evidence of failure. I’m less likely to give up or cheat on something concrete than I am on an abstract desire.
The crazy thing is too, that if you stick with your plans, if you stick with your healthy eating and exercise program, your stress will also become less (even though generally those are the two things we want to give up on first when we are stressed).
How do you manage stress? How do you create plans to help yourself succeed? Did you realize stress was hindering you from hitting your goals and what did you do about it?