I posted recently on LinkedIn how I had a conversation with my husband about how I feel. I told him that I have noticed that when my self-care drops, then so does my energy (and by self-care I mean the whole kit and kaboodle: nutrition, mindset, lifestyle, exercise, self-care regime...)
Stress has six major effects that can keep you from achieving your goals, having energy, feeling clear mentally and feeling like yourself. It affects digestion and gut health, inflammation and the immune system. Stress can cause cravings, increased appetite, and “stress eating.” It can promote fat storage around the waist with its effect on insulin sensitivity. Stress can be mood-busting and demotivating, not to mention how it worsens sleep.
First of all, stress in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is needed to get things done (i.e. having a deadline at work), to help you be alert and reactive when you are in danger (think of when you need to swerve away from a car that could hit you), making appointments on time (like all of the kids activities) and others.
The problem is when when stress becomes chronic and it is there all of the time! It can really do a number on us. We now see that there are many, many effects that stress hormones, mainly cortisol, have on your body. Including the link that people with abdominal obesity tend to have higher cortisol levels.
THE SIX MAJOR EFFECTS
1 - Poor Digestion and Gut Health
Being in a state of stress puts digestion on the back burner. This is because your body is ready to “fight or flee,” rather than “rest and digest.”
One of the most obvious impacts stress has on digestion is “transit time.” You may notice that stress can either quickly speed up how fast your food moves through you (diarrhea). Or, it may slow it down quite a bit (constipation). Neither one of these is ideal.
So, even if you’re eating a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods, you may become nutrient deficient! And proper nutrition is needed at the best of times, let alone when you’re stressed and lack energy.
New research is also showing the impact that stress has on our friendly gut microbes. We’re just beginning to understand the influence that our gut microbes have on all aspects of health. It may be surprising to know that there seems to be a link between stress and gut microbes (in animals). Seriously!
Stress is also linked with tiny holes or “leaks” in your digestive tract. This means that incompletely digested food particles can get into your body through these leaks. This can cause a ton of inflammation.
2 - Inflammation and immune system dysregulation
Guess where 80% of your immune system is located?
Right around your digestive tract!
So, you can imagine if chronic stress is messing with your digestion, it’s going to also mess with your immune system.
More and more research is suggesting that inflammation is part of many chronic diseases. When you’re chronically stressed, this affects your immune system which is supposed to control inflammation. It can make your immune system either hypervigilant, or less-responsive.
If your immune system is hypervigilant, you can develop high inflammatory levels.
If your immune system is less-responsive, it can allow your body to get sick more often, and stay sick longer (you totally don’t have time for this as a working mom).
For optimal health, to feel awesome and have the energy to be your best self, you want your immune system to work properly (not too high, nor too low).
3 - Cravings, increased appetite, and “stress eating”
When you’re stressed do you reach for celery? Or do you prefer fatty or sugary snacks?
Many people tend to eat more food, particularly comfort food. Things that tend to be fatty and sugary. And there is science to back this up.
Scientists are now looking at interactions between stress hormones and the “hunger” and “fullness” hormones.
I don’t even have to tell you how this is going to keep you from feeling amazing.
4 - Insulin sensitivity
Stress also increases your blood sugar, to make sure that your muscles have the fuel (sugar) they need to “fight” or “flee.” And if your muscles are not working and using up that excess blood sugar (i.e. you’re not running for your life), your body secretes insulin to re-absorb that sugar into your cells.
This increase in both cortisol and insulin promote both insulin resistance and fat storage. Especially around the middle.
5 - Mood-busting and demotivating
Stress can not only bring down your mood, but that can also be terribly demotivating. When you’re feeling stressed, you may start feeling moody. You may also have less motivation to do the healthy weight loss activities that you really want to do.
If you’re down in the dumps and not motivated to prepare healthy meals or snacks, or get some exercise, then you’re less likely to do those things.
Plus it is also harder to show up as your awesome self for your family.
6 - Negatively affects sleep
Cortisol is part of your natural sleep-wake cycle. Under normal (non-stressed) conditions, cortisol levels would increase before waking, and slowly drop during the day.
And this makes sense, because we know that it helps increase mental clarity as well as blood sugar to fuel your muscles. And we need mental clarity and to move our muscles, especially when we are awake.
But we also need this effect to “wear off” by the end of the day so we can start getting tired and relaxed enough to get a good night’s sleep. In other words, in the evenings, we want to start more resting and digesting.
Now that we’ve gone through six major reasons how stress hormones keep you from your weight loss goals, let’s talk about what the heck you can do about it.
There are really two main strategies to go about reducing your stress.
First off, you can reduce the amount of stress put on you by re-balancing some demands. Try:
- Saying “no”;
- Getting more support;
- Delegating to someone else;
- Re-negotiating deadlines that seem unreasonable;
- When working, focus on just one thing at a time (don’t multi-task).
Secondly, since you can’t (and maybe don’t want to) completely remove stress from you life, you want to learn to deal with it better. You can improve your personal stress tolerance by trying to:
- Have some fun and laugh;
- Make time for people (and pets) you love;
- Get more, better-quality sleep;
- Be mindful and live more “in the moment”;
- Have one or two cups of green tea (which has been shown to lower stress levels);
- Do light exercise most days per week (e.g. yoga, swimming, or tai chi);
- Go for a walk outside;
- Spend more time in nature;
- Eat a nutrient-rich diet;
- Meditate or deep breathing;
- Relax every evening (e.g. have a bath or read a book);
- Listen to soothing music;
- Do a “brain dump” every night before bed where you just make notes of things you’re
- keeping track of in your head so you can relax more;
- Treat yourself to a massage, nice meal, or pedicure.
WHAT DO I DO ABOUT IT?
If you’re like me, you know what it’s like to be a working or entrepreneurial mom who doesn’t have time to waste trying to figure out what you have to do to get your energy back, gain clarity and feel like yourself again.
Have you been trying to figure out how to feel amazing with little to no success?
Why you need to come to my Exhausted To Energetic live talk:
- I am not going to tell you to drink more water, or eat more greens or get more sleep.
- You are going to learn 3 things that no one is talking about that are at the core of getting your energy back.
- There are the 3 things that really helped me overcome my exhaustion and feel like myself again and they even surprised me that they worked
So register here today! There is only 1 week left and tickets are limited. Come join us and get ready to go from Exhausted to Energetic: www.eventbrite.ca/e/from-exhausted-to-energetic-get-your-energy-back-as-a-working-mom-tickets-59237943