I have a client who works 60 hours a week, only gets 4 hours of sleep a night, has serious relationship issues, and worries incessantly about her finances. She also wants to lose 30 pounds and increase her energy levels.
It would be insane for me to implement an aggressive exercise program, reduce her calories (both of which are forms of stress) and expect her to feel better and lose weight without addressing her biggest issue…the stress LOAD in her life.
Here is why….The body is governed by the hormonal system. Click To Tweet
Hormones (especially cortisol) are highly sensitive to stress and when the body has to deal with high levels of stress for extended periods of time, they go a little (or a lot) nutty and you become a hot, fat-generating mess!
- Fat gets stored in abundance.
- Sleep patterns are disrupted.
- Emotions go to CRAZY-town.
- Appetite is spiked.
- Muscle is lost.
- Metabolism tanks.
- Concentration is greatly diminished.
- Sex drive runs low.
- Depression creeps in.
Of course, small doses of stress can be a wonderful thing. When you stress your body in new and challenging ways you strengthen neuromuscular patterns, build muscle tissue, increase strength and energy levels.
This good stress is known as eustress (short-lived, invigorating, and empowering).
But the stress that most of us are all too familiar with is the more difficult kind that comes as a result of things like financial hardship, difficult relationships, sleep deprivation, work challenges etc.
This stress is appropriately named, distress (depleting, disempowering, yuk).
Optimizing health isn’t as simple as balancing eustress and distress. It is about being acutely aware of the total stress LOAD (also knows as the allostatic load) in your life and making a conscious effort to lighten that load, so you feel challenged but not pushed to the point of physiological breakdown.
In other words, even too much eustress can turn into distress. If I started the above- mentioned client with an aggressive exercise program and a radical change in her calorie intake, I would essentially just be adding MORE stress to her body, leading to more breakdown, NOT vibrant health.
The health equation is much bigger than food + exercise, which is probably why physical transformation is daunting and confusing for so many women.
You are eating well and exercising harder than ever, but can’t lose weight?
The equation of optimizing health looks more like this: good nutrition + smart movement practice + quality sleep + healthy relationships + a strong sense of purpose + job satisfaction + recovery time + hydration + elegant thinking.
Optimizing health comes down to paying attention to ALL of the things IN your life that act as stressors ON your life. And that means making some hard choices about what you need to change in your life to de-load the stress, to make optimizing your health possible.
Below are a few suggestions to get you on your way:
Get Straight With Your Values
Are you living in a way that honors your value system or are you just letting life have its way with you?
Take a few minutes to sit down and question what is MOST important to you in your life.
Now open your day planner or i-calendar.
Does your schedule this week reflect the importance of the things you just wrote down?
No? It should!
Put Your Big Girl Panties On
Reclaiming your health means you are going to have to make some tough decisions.
One of the first steps here is just asking yourself, “do I have time to dedicate to getting healthier?”
If not, start with MAKING ROOM.
What needs to be removed from your life in order for you to give yourself more time and attention?
Stop Waiting for Someone to Give you Permission
It is ok to do less than you have in the past to unload stress (in fact, it very well may be necessary).
It is ok to say no.
It is ok to focus on yourself.
It is ok to be different.
Give yourself permission to be healthy. You are the only person who can.
Be Quiet, Be Still
Stress is often the result of too much going on, and feeling like we have NO control over any of it. STOP!
I mean it. Stop…literally.
Sit in a chair. Close your eyes and for 5 minutes focus on your breath and nothing else. When your attention drifts (and it will), just bring it back to your breath.
Doing this just twice a day, can have profound effects on how you perceive and deal with the stressors in your life.
Put Your Stress in a Different Frame
Does everything you deem stressful in your life really have to be stressful? Or are you making it stressful as a result of how you are thinking about it?
Write down something that is really stressing you out right now, and then list 3 ways that you might be able to look at the situation in a more positive, less stressful way.
Re-framing stress is POWERFUL stuff and…How you perceive your stress can make all of the difference in how your body reacts to it. Click To Tweet
I love this stuff. Not stress, of course, but helping to educate women on just how powerful it can be.
It is such an honor to witness my clients making the tough decisions, giving themselves permission and re-framing their world. Their efforts and hard work are rewarded with much so much more than increased energy and a toned bod.
They start living in a way that honors who they really are and what they really want out of life. And there is far less stress in that place.
Who do you know that needs to de-load the stress in her life, to reclaim herself? Do her a favor and share this with her.
Need more inspiration to help get your health back on trace, sign up for the Grace & Grit 3 Part Video Series here: http://graceandgrit.com/3-part-video-series-invite