Struggling with Stress? Forest Bathing Might Be a Solution For You

Picture this: You’re faced with a choice – sitting at your desk or strolling through a serene forest, surrounded by nature’s wonders. For many, the latter option sounds far more appealing. And it’s not just about escaping screens – it’s about embracing the healing embrace of nature. Enter forest bathing, a practice gaining traction for its profound psychological benefits. But what exactly is it, and does it live up to the hype? Let’s delve into the research to uncover the truth.

Originating in Japan as shinrin-yoku, forest bathing is more than just a leisurely walk in the woods – it’s a therapeutic experience that engages all the senses. This practice, also known as forest therapy or forest medicine, has garnered attention worldwide for its potential to alleviate stress and improve overall well-being. But what does the science say?

A recent Italian study conducted an umbrella review of 16 systematic reviews, examining the effects of forest bathing on various health outcomes. While the quality of evidence varied, the consensus suggests that forest therapy offers notable psychological benefits. From mood enhancement to stress reduction, the evidence points towards a positive impact on mental health.

However, it’s essential to interpret these findings cautiously, considering the limitations of the individual studies. Despite some shortcomings, the overarching conclusion is clear: spending time in nature, even for as little as 10 to 30 minutes, can have significant benefits for emotional balance and relaxation.

Considering forest bathing? Here’s what to remember before you go:

  • Engage Your Senses: Embrace the full sensory experience of forest bathing – from the sight of towering trees to the soothing sounds of nature. Let the fragrance of the forest air and the feel of the earth beneath your feet immerse you in its therapeutic embrace.
  • Disconnect to Reconnect: Resist the temptation to document every moment with your phone. By unplugging from technology, you can fully immerse yourself in the natural world and reap the benefits of uninterrupted tranquillity.
  • Prioritise Mental Well-being: In times of stress, prioritise spending time in nature as a form of self-care. The restorative effects of forest bathing may surpass those of conventional workouts, offering a holistic approach to well-being.
  • Combine Exercise with Nature: Harness the evolutionary benefits of exercising in natural environments. By engaging both body and mind, outdoor workouts offer a unique opportunity to enhance cognitive function and overall fitness.

As the allure of forest bathing continues to captivate nature enthusiasts and health-conscious individuals alike, it’s essential to recognise its potential as a therapeutic tool for modern living. While more research is needed to fully understand its mechanisms, the evidence thus far suggests that immersing oneself in the natural world can be a powerful antidote to the stresses of modern life. So, the next time you’re seeking solace from the chaos, consider taking a stroll through the forest – your mind and body will thank you for it.

References: 

Antonelli M, Donelli D, Carlone L, Maggini V, Firenzuoli F, Bedeschi E. Effects of forest bathing (shinrin-yoku) on individual well-being: an umbrella review. Int J Environ Health Res. 2021 Apr 28;1–26.

Raichlen DA, Alexander GE. Adaptive Capacity: An Evolutionary Neuroscience Model Linking Exercise, Cognition, and Brain Health. Trends Neurosci. 2017 Jul;40(7):408–21.

4 Key Steps to Transforming Stress Into A Superpower

As we embark on a new year, it’s natural to reflect on aspects of our lives that we’d like to improve. One common theme is the desire to manage stress more effectively. Ever wondered why some people seem to thrive under stress while others crumble? It turns out, it’s all about mindset. Your perception of stress can significantly impact how it affects your performance, health, and overall well-being. Stanford University researchers, led by Dr. Alia Crum, delved into the intriguing question of whether someone with a “stress is debilitating” mindset could transform into someone who sees stress as a positive force. The answer, as it turns out, lies in the power of metacognition—how we think about thinking.

Dr. Crum and her team conducted a series of experiments to explore the malleability of stress mindsets. They introduced participants to a metacognitive process designed to reframe their view of stress. The process involved four key steps.

1. Understanding Your Stress Mindset:

Let’s begin by exploring how your mindset about stress has shaped your experiences. Take a moment to reflect on occasions when stress has played a positive or negative role in your life. Have you ever embraced a challenging task, or perhaps avoided something important due to stress?

2. Noticing and Naming Your Stress:

Now, let’s identify a recurring stressor in your life. Focus on observation rather than immediate problem-solving. Describe the emotional, physical, and behavioural aspects of your stress response.

3. Welcoming Your Stress:

Recognise that stress often stems from a deep concern or investment in a particular aspect of your life. Identifying the source of stress allows you to reframe it as a sign of caring or importance. You can complete this sentence as an exercise: “I am stressed about this because I care about…”

You can also try “The Five Whys” which is a powerful tool for dissecting stressors. Start by asking “why” in response to your initial stressor and continue this process at least five times, each time probing deeper into the core issues. This method helps reveal the true origins of stress, enabling targeted and effective coping strategies.

4. Turning Your Stress into a Superpower:

The final step involves transforming stress into a source of growth. Explore how stress could benefit you in a given situation. What opportunities does it provide? What changes can you make to leverage stress for a more enriching experience? Remember, this is about empowering yourself to navigate stress and harness it for personal growth.

In essence, by embracing a metacognitive approach, you can shift your stress mindset from “debilitating” to “enhancing.” This shift not only leads to measurable improvements in physical health and interpersonal skills, as found in the Stanford University study but also empowers you to navigate stress as a catalyst for personal growth. As you guide yourself through this transformative process, remember: stress can be your superpower, propelling you towards a more resilient and fulfilling life. So, as we step into the new year, consider making this shift in mindset a cornerstone of your resolutions, unlocking the potential for a year marked by personal development and well-being.

References: 

https://psycnet.apa.org/fulltext/2023-72899-001.html

How Does Stress Influence Obesity and Vice Versa?

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus what we already knew: stress is closely linked to weight gain. However, the question remains: why exactly is stress problematic in this context? Beyond the surface-level effects, what underlies this relationship? A review by UCLA researchers offers insights into why stress and obesity are intricately connected, revealing a more complex interplay than commonly acknowledged.

How Stress Contributes to Weight Gain

Stress has a profound impact on various systems involved in weight regulation, and these effects are interconnected. They form feedback loops that can influence one another. Let’s explore these systems:

Cognition

Stress can disrupt cognitive functions, including executive function and self-regulation, which encompass skills such as planning, organising, emotional management, concentration, and impulse control.

Behaviours

Stress influences eating habits, physical activity levels, and sleep patterns. Interestingly, within this system, each factor can also affect the others. For instance, inadequate sleep can hinder physical activity, and a lack of physical activity can disrupt sleep patterns.

Physiology

This area delves into the scientific aspect. Researchers outline three ways in which stress might affect individuals physiologically:

    • Stress Hormones: Stress triggers the release of hormones that can lead to increased appetite and signal the body to store fat. Scientifically, this is referred to as “hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activation.”
    • Reward Seeking: Stress elevates the brain’s desire for feel-good chemicals, such as dopamine, motivating individuals to consume highly palatable foods rich in sugar and fat or to seek out substances like alcohol or drugs
    • Microbiome Impact: While research on humans is limited, there is speculation that stress may negatively affect the gut microbiome, potentially increasing susceptibility to weight gain. Remarkably, the gut microbiome can also influence emotions and behaviours.
Biochemistry

Stress can impact blood chemicals associated with weight control:

    • Leptin and Ghrelin: These hormones play a role in hunger and appetite. Leptin suppresses hunger, while ghrelin stimulates it, though the relationship is more intricate than this simplified explanation.
    • Neuropeptide Y: This peptide may stimulate both appetite and fat storage.

These interconnected factors provide a comprehensive view of how stress can affect individuals’ weight. However, there is more to explore.

How Obesity Can Induce Stress

Certainly, it’s essential to delve into how obesity impacts stress. Obesity not only affects physical health but also introduces a psychological dimension. The societal stigma associated with obesity can be a potent stressor in itself. People living with obesity may encounter prejudice, bias, and discrimination, which, in turn, contribute to elevated stress levels. This weight stigma-induced stress forms a challenging feedback loop, where stress exacerbates obesity, and obesity intensifies stress. This cyclical relationship highlights the need for a comprehensive approach to health and well-being, one that not only addresses physical aspects but also emphasises the importance of mental and emotional resilience in the face of societal pressures and prejudices. It underscores the significance of empathy, understanding, and support in helping individuals navigate the complex interplay between obesity and stress.

What You Can Learn from This

  • Holistic Approach: As someone looking to improve their health, it’s crucial to recognize that nutrition advice is just one piece of the puzzle. While tracking macros like protein, carbs, and fat is important, it’s equally vital to understand that other factors, especially stress, can significantly impact your progress.
  • Identify Your Starting Point: If you’re facing challenges with weight management, it’s essential to determine the root cause. If stress plays a significant role in your life, simply focusing on changing your diet might not deliver the results you want. Consider prioritizing strategies to manage stress effectively, build resilience, and regulate your emotions. These skills can create a solid foundation for making lasting improvements in your eating habits and overall lifestyle.

References:

http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-010418-102936 

How a Positive Mindset Can Make a Difference

Are you a person who always battles with stress? Well, you’re definitely not in this alone. Stress is a constant companion in our lives, a reality we all must face. While it’s smart to tackle the stressors we can control, how we handle stress is equally important. This is where the concept of a “maladaptive coping mechanism” comes into play. But instead of getting tangled in the jargon, we propose a healthier approach: developing a positive stress mindset. This mindset could be the difference between groaning “Why is everything so tough?” and saying “I can learn and grow through this.” 

Research indicates that a strong stress mindset empowers individuals with better coping skills, improved health, and higher performance when confronted with stressors. So, how can you bridge the gap between these two attitudes? It’s a process, and an intriguing study published in the journal entitled “Emotion”, which sheds light on a quick way to get started.

The Study’s Breakdown

The study engaged 150 university students in testing a stress mindset visualization exercise. These students were split into two groups, each completing a different activity on experiment day:

Group #1: The control group received a background on visualization but no guidance on using it for stress management.

Group #2: The intervention group undertook an imagery exercise, guided through visualization and journaling, to manage stress.

The imagery exercise aimed to help participants vividly imagine upcoming stressors and their potential benefits. It encouraged participants to jot down their thoughts in detail.

The Study’s Findings

The impact of this short exercise on the intervention group was remarkable. Participants demonstrated a positive shift in their stress attitudes immediately after the exercise and even two weeks later. Interestingly, this shift was more pronounced among those who initially had higher levels of distress. While the positive effects slightly diminished after two weeks, the intervention’s influence was still notable. This aligns with the concept that long-term mindset changes require consistent reinforcement.

The Takeaways

Embrace a Positive Stress Mindset

Research continues to emphasise the power of how we perceive stress. Shifting from viewing stress as a threat to an opportunity for growth can be transformative. The ability to reframe stress enhances cognitive flexibility, making it easier to cope and learn from tough situations.

Small Steps, Big Impact

In stress reframing, change does not need to be monumental. This study shows that a brief exercise can yield significant results. It’s proof that even a small effort can lead to substantial improvements.

Experiment for Lasting Change

Adopting a new mindset is an ongoing journey. Diverse strategies can work wonders. While the study’s exercise involved visualization and journaling, you can tailor techniques to your preferences. From listing common stressors and their lessons to imagining ways to tackle stress, variety is key. 

Stress isn’t a simple opponent; it’s a complex riddle. Fortunately, this study provides a crucial clue: a positive stress mindset matters. While stress is here to stay, how we perceive it is within our control. By shifting from “the world is against me” to “I can handle this,” we empower ourselves to handle stress more effectively. Remember, you have the power to turn stress challenges into growth opportunities.

References:

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1359432X.2017.1374947

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30418523/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31566399/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33802066/ 

4 Things You Need to Know About Stress and Sleep

In the busy world we live in today, two well-known challenges often show up: stress and sleep problems. It’s no secret that both can take a toll on your overall well-being. They can weaken your immune system, wreak havoc on your metabolic and cardiovascular health, and even impact your cognitive function and emotional regulation. While it’s clear that stress and sleep are intertwined, understanding the intricate dance between them is more complex than meets the eye. Let’s delve into four key insights that shed light on the intriguing relationship between stress and sleep.

1. A Vicious Cycle: Stress and Sleep Deprivation

Picture this: stress and sleep problems are like old pals who always show up together. It’s a package deal that many of us are familiar with. Research has revealed that these two often go hand in hand. Where you find stress, sleep troubles often lurk nearby, and vice versa. But the age-old question remains: which one comes first? Is it the stress that keeps you tossing and turning at night, or is it the lack of sleep that magnifies your stressors?

Realistically, it’s not as simple as cause and effect. Stress and sleep problems can create a vicious cycle, each intensifying the other. Brazilian scientists embarked on a mission to unravel this puzzle by studying the experiences of 92 young adults. Their innovative approach aimed to tease out the culprit behind the cycle of stress and sleep disruption.

2. The Sleep-Stress Instigator

It turns out that poor sleep often takes the lead in the stress-sleep cycle. The study’s participants experienced increased perceived stress following nights of insufficient sleep. Interestingly, the data indicated that stress levels didn’t wield the same influence over subsequent sleep patterns. This surprising revelation suggests that sleep problems might be a driving force behind heightened stress levels.

3. Cause and Effect Unveiled

This study’s strength lies in its methodology. Unlike previous attempts, it employed a longitudinal approach to gather real-time data on participants’ sleep and stress patterns. The daily tracking of sleep hours and stress levels over the span of 4 to 11 weeks allowed researchers to uncover cause-and-effect relationships that had eluded them before.

However, it’s worth noting that this study’s findings are specific to young adults in Brazil. Cultural and demographic differences could influence how stress and sleep interact in other populations. While the study provides valuable insights, its applicability may vary among different groups.

4. A Path Towards Better Well-Being

Now that we’ve unveiled some of the mysteries surrounding stress and sleep, what can you do with this knowledge? The takeaways are twofold:

Firstly, prioritize sleep for better stress management. When stressors are beyond your control, improving your sleep quality can help mitigate their impact. This study suggests that enhancing your sleep might contribute to a more manageable perception of stress, even in the face of unchangeable circumstances.

Secondly, embrace the power of adequate sleep. Striving for 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep each night is a wise move. Inadequate sleep has been linked to a slew of health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. If you find yourself clocking fewer than 7 hours of slumber and battling daytime stress, addressing your sleep habits could be a pivotal step towards better well-being.

Keep in mind that while more sleep is generally beneficial, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Excessive, unrestful sleep might signal underlying health concerns, warranting a medical evaluation.

In the intricate dance between stress and sleep, understanding their interactions empowers you to make informed choices. By nurturing your sleep and managing stress to the best of your ability, you can find a harmonious balance that contributes to your overall health and happiness. Remember, it’s not just about the quantity of sleep, but the quality of life it can help you achieve.

References:

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.sleh.2022.01.004

How Your Appetite Responds Under Stress

Stress is like an unwelcome guest that often overstays its welcome. Whether it’s work deadlines, family responsibilities, or unexpected challenges, stress can be hard to avoid. But have you ever wondered how stress might be influencing your eating habits? Recent research suggests that stress doesn’t just play with our emotions; it might also have a surprising impact on our appetite. In this article, we’ll delve into a fascinating study that unravels the intricate relationship between stress, body composition, and food preferences.

Imagine this: brain scans, freezing-cold water, and a menu filled with both food and office supplies. Sounds intriguing, right? Researchers at Johns Hopkins University designed a study to explore how stress affects the appetite of individuals with different body compositions. They recruited 29 participants—17 with obesity and 12 lean individuals, and subjected them to both physical and social stressors.

The participants underwent brain scans using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while exposed to different stress levels. The catch? They were shown food cues alongside words like “rubber bands” and “staple remover.” This unique approach aimed to uncover how stress impacts desire and restraint, especially in the realm of eating.

Stress vs. Appetite: Lean vs. Obesity

As the saying goes, “lean and hungry,” and this study provides a real-life example. Lean participants displayed higher levels of wanting and hunger in response to the presented food cues. Interestingly, they craved everything, from energy-dense foods like pizza to low-calorie options like fruits and vegetables. Even non-food items like office supplies seemed appealing to them.

When finally given the chance to eat after a nine-and-a-half-hour fasting period, lean participants consumed around 1,000 calories. But here’s the twist: under higher-stress conditions, they actually consumed more fruits and vegetables compared to when they weren’t stressed.

Conversely, participants with obesity showed lower wanting scores and higher restraint scores. However, their eating behavior told a different story. When presented with an all-you-can-eat buffet, those with obesity consumed approximately 1,400 calories in the non-stress condition and nearly 1,600 calories under stress. Furthermore, they gravitated towards energy-dense foods like pizza during the high-stress phase of the study.

Digging deeper, the study also explored how participants’ brains reacted to food cues during fMRI scans. Notably, those with obesity exhibited lower activation in brain regions linked to self-control when contemplating higher-energy-density foods. However, they showed more activation in reward-seeking areas under high-stress conditions.

Key Takeaways

1. Genetics and Appetite:

This study underscores the influence of genetics on eating behaviors, particularly under stress. Brain activation patterns and eating responses suggest that individuals might be predisposed to consume more in high-stress situations. Lower impulse control has also been linked to a higher risk of obesity in other studies.

2. Stress Management for Weight Management

While there’s no magic solution for weight loss, managing stress could significantly impact its success. Stress and food often go hand in hand, but turning to food for comfort rarely solves the underlying issue. Doing the “pick a thing before the thing” practice, such as taking a short walk or sipping water before eating, can help create a mental buffer between stress and eating.

Stress and appetite have a complex relationship that can be influenced by body composition and genetics. While stress may push some to eat more, it could drive others to avoid certain foods. By understanding these dynamics, we can empower ourselves to make more mindful choices, even in high-stress situations. Remember, the goal isn’t to eliminate the connection between food and emotions but rather to create a healthy space between the two—a space where our well-being and nourishment can coexist harmoniously. 

References:

http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0271915

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2017.07.052

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2016.06.041

The Medicine You Didn’t Know You Needed

In our fast-paced lives, feeling burdened and stressed has sadly become all too typical. We continually seem to be handling a million things and are having trouble maintaining our balance. But what if there was a way to tackle stress and boost your mental well-being without resorting to complicated solutions?

Picture this: a magic pill that not only keeps your body healthy but also uplifts your spirits. Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, guess what? Exercise is that magical medicine. It’s like a superhero that fights off heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and more. And when it comes to your mental and emotional well-being, exercise has your back too. A groundbreaking study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine has some eye-opening insights to share about the powerful link between exercise and mental health.

Think of this study as the ultimate game-changer. In this study, researchers from the University of Montreal analysed 97 meta-analyses, which included information from over 1,000 randomised clinical trials involving a whopping 128,000 participants. The study revealed that exercise is as good as, if not better than, counselling or medications when it comes to beating depression and anxiety. It’s like your personal superhero, fighting off the villains in your mind.

With this, here are some interesting facts about exercise that you need to know: 

1. The Intensity Matters

It’s not about sweating buckets; it’s about finding the right intensity. Moderate-intensity and higher-intensity workouts shine as champions in the realm of mental health. They can regulate mood-boosting chemicals in your brain better than low-intensity activities.

2. Short and Sweet Wins

You don’t need to be a gym rat to reap the rewards. Some people experience the most benefits when they work out for around 30 minutes most days of the week. Quick and practical—just the way we like it.

3. Workout Preferences

While all exercises are like little mental health warriors, some specialise in certain battles. For instance, resistance training takes down depression, while mind-body exercises like yoga give anxiety a tough run for its money.

Sometimes, a little goes a long way. Shorter, regular exercise sessions are your secret weapon against stress and mood swings. It’s like hitting the mental reset button. However, just like life, exercise is all about choices. Don’t fall for the “one-size-fits-all” trap. What works best for you might not be the same for someone else. At the end of the day, the key is finding something you enjoy and can stick with.

Moreover, it must be emphasised that while exercise is a fantastic tool and can serve as the superhero in your life story, it’s not a replacement for professional help. If you’re facing serious mental health challenges, don’t hesitate to reach out to qualified healthcare professionals.

References:

http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2022-106195

Can Emotional Regulation Combat Stress?

Feeling overwhelmed and stressed has become a common experience for many of us. It’s not uncommon to find ourselves in a constant state of anxiety, struggling to cope with the demands of everyday life. However, research suggests that prolonged periods of stress can have negative effects on our overall well-being. A recent study conducted by the University of Montreal aimed to investigate whether individuals who perceive themselves as “very stressed out” exhibit higher physiological biomarkers of stress compared to those who are more emotionally regulated. The findings shed light on the importance of emotional regulation in managing stress and improving overall mental health.

The Study

The researchers recruited 123 healthy volunteers who self-identified as either “zen” or “very stressed out.” The participants underwent various psychological and emotional assessments to determine if their perceived stress levels were reflected in their blood work. The assessments measured subjective ratings of stress, depressive symptoms, anxiety, emotional regulation, resilience, and mind-wandering. Additionally, the participants participated in the Trier Social Stress Test, which involved a speech and mental arithmetic task in front of judges.

The Results

Interestingly, the study revealed no significant differences in the biomarkers of stress between the two groups. Both groups experienced similar physiological responses to stress, regardless of their self-perceived stress levels. However, the “very stressed out” group exhibited higher levels of symptoms related to depression, anxiety, and poor emotional regulation. On the other hand, the “zen” group demonstrated higher levels of resilience, emotional stability, and positive mental health.

Implications

These findings suggest that individuals who perceive themselves as highly stressed may be experiencing psychological distress rather than a significant physiological stress response. This offers a glimmer of hope for those struggling with stress, as it indicates that there might not be an underlying physiological problem that needs to be addressed. Instead, the focus can be on improving emotional regulation skills to better manage daily stressors and move closer to a state of calmness and well-being.

Here are some practical steps for managing stress:

1. Stress Management

Stress management is crucial for maintaining overall well-being. Explore different techniques that help you regulate your emotions, such as deep breathing exercises, mindfulness practices, or engaging in activities you enjoy. Find what works best for you and incorporate it into your daily routine.

2. Don’t accept stress as a fact of life

Recognize that chronic stress can have long-term consequences on your mental health. Take proactive steps to address your emotional well-being and seek support from professionals if needed. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help when stress feels overwhelming.

While stress is a common experience, it is essential to understand its impact on our well-being. The study highlights the importance of emotional regulation in managing stress effectively. By developing emotional competence and adopting strategies to manage stress, individuals can improve their overall mental health and move towards a more balanced and resilient state. It’s never too late to start prioritising your emotional well-being and finding ways to navigate life’s challenges with greater ease and peace of mind.

References: 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ynstr.2022.100454

Stress and Weight Gain — How Are They Related?

Are you feeling frustrated about your weight and what to do about it? Does your stress lead to weight gain? 

Stress can be a powerful trigger of weight gain. The stress response affects many aspects of our lives, including food. When we are stressed, we have an overwhelming desire to ea, and if you try to eat in response to stress, it is likely that this will lead to weight gain. Being aware of stressful situations and avoiding eating as a way of coping with your emotions is a good way to ensure that you don’t tip the scales the wrong way.

How Stress Leads To Weight Gain

Stress can cause weight gain in a number of different ways. Stress can trigger the release of hormones that make you feel hungry, including cortisol and insulin.

It also affects the levels of leptin and ghrelin, which are responsible for regulating your cravings, appetite, and your feeling of fullness. With stress, these hormones are imbalanced, leading to feeling hungry and not feeling satisfied even if you’ve eaten plenty. This leads to overeating.

Stress also can make you so busy or tired that you don’t have time to eat right or get enough exercise. When you’re under stress, your body may crave high-calorie foods that are quick to digest and provide a burst of energy. Over time, these cravings can lead to weight gain if they aren’t satisfied with nutritious foods.

How to Break the Stress Cycle, Lose Weight, and Keep It Off

Stress causes us to eat more, and we may also crave high-fat, high-sugar foods when we’re stressed out. However, there are other ways that stress can negatively affect our health — including how much weight we gain. Here are a few strategies that can help you break the cycle of stress and weight gain;

  • Sleep well. Sleep is your Superpower. Sleep is essential for good health and weight management because it gives our bodies time to repair themselves from the day’s stressors. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep each night so that your body has enough time to perform its nightly repairs on your cells and muscles before the next day starts again!
  • Include stress management habits in your daily life. This could include making time for some deep breathing, even just one intentional breath per day, to pause and reconnect with your calm side. Being aware of your body, such as the tingling sensation in your hands and feet, is an excellent way to lead your attention away from the stressful thoughts and situation. Notice if you have tense muscles, and then gently release them. It’s impossible to feel stressed if your muscles are relaxed. Paying attention to your breath and your body is the best stress buster that you can practise, as you have your breath and your body anywhere you go. You can do it whether you’re busy or lying in bed, and it’s free!
  • Exercise regularly. It gets your body moving and helps relieve tension by releasing feel-good brain chemicals called endorphins. And regular exercise can help you control your weight over the long term.
  • Eat slowly. Slow down when eating meals, so that you don’t mindlessly scarf down everything on your plate — or even worse, eat other things throughout the day because you’re still hungry after meals. It’s important to eat slowly because it helps you feel full faster, which will help keep cravings at bay. It also helps you enjoy your food better, adding to your feelings of pleasure and satisfaction.
  • Stop skipping breakfast. If skipping breakfast works for you and your weight loss goal, go for it. But if it causes you to overeat in all your other meals, then skipping breakfast is not working for you. Skipping breakfast sets up overeating later in the day by making us ravenous and more likely to fall victim to junk food cravings. If you’re not hungry when you wake up, have something small like fruit or oatmeal with skim milk instead of skipping breakfast altogether.

The takeaway

Learning how to deal with your stress can not only reduce your chance of getting sick and lowering your immunity, but it can also contribute to weight loss. Work on your psychological health in order to be able to keep the weight off for good.

https://www.verywellmind.com/how-stress-can-cause-weight-gain-3145088

https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/stress-weight-gain

https://www.orlandohealth.com/content-hub/how-too-much-stress-can-cause-weight-gain-and-what-to-do-about-

https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/stress-weight-gain

https://www.healthline.com/health/stress/stress-and-weight-gain#diagnosis

3 Strategies For Dealing With Stress Eating

Do you eat more than you normally would when you are under stress? How often does that happen? Is it time to make some changes around that area?

Stress eating is a common challenge for people who are dealing with difficult life circumstances. If you are stressed out, it can be hard to focus on the right foods and eating habits. This can lead to weight gain and a higher risk of developing chronic conditions like diabetes.

If you are dealing with stress eating, here are some strategies you can use to help keep your eating habits under control.

Strategy #1: Develop awareness around what triggers your stress eating

Become aware of your stress eating triggers. Identify the situations or events that often lead you to reach for food when you’re feeling stressed out. For example, if you tend to eat more after you talk to your mother on weekends, you’ve found your trigger. This will make it clear for you that it is that stressor that you want to deal with, and not really hunger. Hence, you need stress relief, not more food.

Taking the time to pause and listen to your body will help you develop that awareness. When you start to crave for food when you are under stress, pause for a moment, and ask yourself if you are indeed hungry. If you are hungry, then you need food. If you are not hungry yet you are craving for food, ask yourself, “What am I really craving for?” If you listen to your body, thoughts and feelings, you could discover that you are indeed looking for something else, such as love and care, or companionship, or acceptance, and so on. 

Having this awareness will give you options. How else can you satisfy that craving that does not involve food (as you are not really hungry)? Maybe you can call a dear friend for support or companionship, or maybe you take a few minutes to remind yourself that you only need acceptance from yourself.

Remember, you have options on how to fulfil your needs. Create that list of options and place that list where you could easily see it, especially when you’re stress eating. It could include taking 3 deep breaths, taking a short walk, playing with your child, stretching, doing some house chores, and other things that can distract you from food.

Strategy #2: Practise mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a technique where you focus on what you are experiencing in the present moment. It helps you become more aware of what’s happening around you as well as inside yourself at any given moment.

Take a few minutes every day to sit quietly and focus on your breathing or listen to soft music. This will help reduce stress by focusing on something else other than the stressor. Then notice what thoughts pass through your mind, and notice how you feel physically (e.g., relaxed or tense). Relax your muscles as you breathe. It’s impossible to feel sterssed if your body is relaxed. Try it. This habit helps you in dealing with stress eating, because you can think about other options besides food to calm yourself down.

Also mindfulness when you’re eating. Be there 100%. Experience your food fully. Notice what you see, hear, smell and feel. Notice the colours, steam, texture, and just how the food feels in your mouth and as it travels to your throat and your tummy. Mmm yum. 

Doing this will give you more pleasure and hence more satisfaction, which helps prevent over-eating. Mindfulness is such a great practice, not just with eating. It helps you experience the simple joys of life every day, it helps you live in the present moment, and it helps you stay out of your head (where almost all of the troubles begin).

Strategy #3: Take a self-compassionate approach

Negative self-talk, shame and guilt do not help you in developing healthy eating habits. Don’t assume that being hard on yourself will create change.

We all have difficult times. We all have food cravings. Seeking comfort in food does not make you a bad person, and it doesn’t make you lesser as a person. Your behaviour and your cravings do not define who you are. It’s okay that you are going through a difficult moment. Everyone does. It will pass, and you can handle it.

Remember that self-compassion is not an excuse to eat anything you want. Of course, you need to adopt habits that support you in reaching your goals. Practising self-compassion when you find yourself stress eating will remove the guilt that people normally feel when “giving in”, and guilt is not good for your health and well-being. Self-compassion means you give yourself a break sometimes, recognising all the factors that lead to your choices.

With self-compassion, you develop kindness towards yourself. This increases self-esteem and emotion quality, which help in creating better choices in your lifestyle. Small things that make you nicer to yourself can indeed improve eating habits.

Which new habit do you commit to develop? When are you going to start? What happens to your life when you develop that new habit? Who else will benefit when you can deal with stress and develop healthy eating habits?

 

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