Your house is dirty, your boss got on your case about all the work that’s piling up, and your kids keep nagging you to help with homework while you are washing THEIR clothes…  what do you do?  Turn to ice cream. Order pizza.  Go eat a cheeseburger.  Get fat, that’s the real answer.  All this stress can lead to a rise in Cortisol levels, and in turn cause you to gain unwanted weight.

First of all let’s go through what Cortisol is.  Cortisol is a hormone that is produced in your body when you are stressed (there are others also produced, such as adrenaline, but they have much different effects).  Cortisol’s job is to replenish your body after elevated stress levels, or in easy terms it increases your appetite.  Back in the caveman days this would be a good thing.  It would cause you to take in more nutrients after you had to escape from that saber tooth tiger or after hunting that woolly mammoth.  But, in today’s society the stresses are much different.  Instead of running from dangerous animals (unless that gorilla gets out of the zoo), stress usually comes from emotional or mental areas of life.  For example, you have too much to do at work and the deadline in encroaching on you much faster than you’d like, or you have too much to do around the house and only two arms to do it with. Something along those lines is where most of your stress comes from in today’s world.  The problem with that is these stresses are most likely not causing you to burn too many calories, like the cavemen were.

So what does this mean?  Well, Cortisol can stick around in your system for a long time, and if you are always “stressing” about something then guess what… yep, that Cortisol never leaves your system because you are always producing more.  So, because Cortisol increases your appetite that means if you never get rid of that hormone you will always be hungry, and in turn will be overeating.  Eating more calories than you burn means you will gain weight.  If you are eating more calories than you need, every day, every week… think about that… you could be eating yourself to obesity because you are worried about getting things done.  Seems crazy to think you could be shortening your life because you are worrying about doing that laundry…

Not only does that mean you are probably eating more quantity of foods, but because you are stressed you are more than likely going to reach for those comfort foods instead of celery.  I’m sad, where is the ice cream?  I am so worked up from my job that I don’t want to cook, I’ll just order a pizza.  Do you see where this is headed?  It’s all one big downward spiral.  Get stressed and you reach for the unhealthy options, and in turn eat more of those higher calorie foods because your stress hormones keep telling you that you are hungry… one big circle that seems tough to break.  I’m not saying a cheat meal or a cheeseburger once in a while is all bad, but if you let it those cheat meals will start happening daily, and you don’t want that.

But don’t worry, I’ll let you in on a little secret… That work is always going to be there, get it done and your boss will have more for you.  You will always have laundry that needs to get done, unless you live in a nudist colony, then I guess you can just go to the beach? Don’t forget the sunscreen…ouch.  But in all seriousness, there is always going to be something in life that needs to get done.  I’m hoping you can replace some of those things once in a while with a little bit of self-preservation time. Time to get your mind right and do what’s best for yourself.

So now that you are even more stressed because I just told you how stressed you are, I’m going to give you a few things that I enjoy doing to help relieve my stress levels.

#1- I bet you can guess this one, I go to the gym.  Not only does exercise have amazing health benefits but it has also been shown to decrease stress, increase those “happy chemicals” and decrease symptoms of depression.

#2- I go outside.  I enjoy hearing the sounds of nature and breathing in fresh air.  Being by the water, or out in the woods gives me a sense of calmness and has a rejuvenating effect on me that is sometimes hard to describe.  It just helps me let things go that were bothering me.  Even if it is just a walk down the sidewalk, seeing trees and animals helps. I just feel better.

#3- Hugs.  Yep, you read that right.  And no, My wife didn’t write this. Giving/Getting a hug can help relax you and (for me anyway) make you feel like you are not in this fight alone.  Added bonus, hugs actually help to lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of getting heart disease!

#4- Pets.  I don’t think I have to say much about this one, pets seem to know how to always make you a little bit happier 🙂

Those are a few of my go to things for when I am feeling stressed.  I don’t know if this has/will help you at all… I just hope you can smile a little today and not worry so much about all those things that stress you out.

If you need help with that #1 tip, or heck with any of the tips, I’m your guy.

Stay Healthy,