Whether we like it or not, stress is a natural part of life. It can’t be avoided but if you don’t reduce stress, it can wreak all sorts of havoc. Chronic stress is proven a major cause of anxiety, depression, heart disease, weight gain, weakened immune system, and more.
But you can combat this. Discover here how you can gain benefits while losing stress and kilos…
What is Stress?
Stress is a change of physiological state necessary for survival. In the face of danger, the brain releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These amplify your breathing, heart rate and tense your muscles, preparing you for a fight or flight response.
This was vital for everyday life in the caveman days when we lived among wild animals. However, elevated stress levels were only designed for short-term reactions (like running from that saber-tooth tiger).
Stuck in Survival Mode
Many people today deal with chronic stress. As humans evolved, we developed abilities like imagination and self-recognition. However, the survival brain doesn’t know the difference between real or imagined situations. Therefore, it can release stress hormones far more regularly than necessary.
Constantly elevated stress levels can cause issues like:
- mood swings and irritability
- loss of appetite or overeating
- anxiety and depression
- headaches and high blood pressure
- low immune system
- fatigue or insomnia
- digestion problems
- heart complications.
What Can Help You Reduce Stress?
Exercise! It can improve you mentally and physically. It will reduce stress by releasing endorphins. These chemicals are natural painkillers that stimulate the body. People who exercise often report feeling exhilarated afterward, hence the term ‘runners high’.
Exercise stretches the muscles that have been chronically tensed and disrupts the mind from dwelling thoughts. Combine this with tools like meditation, yoga, healthy food, and lifestyle choices, and you’ll become calm as a cucumber.
What You’ll Gain if You Reduce Stress
You’ll sleep more easily and consistently. Lack of sleep affects growth hormones, insulin, ghrelin, and leptin hormones, which control appetite and energy levels. This in turn affects mood and stress levels. By getting a good night’s sleep, you’ll reduce cravings for carbs and improve tolerance and focus.
Studies reveal that people who sleep for six hours or less are at greater risk for obesity. After a good workout, you’ll have no trouble catching some z’s.
Feel like punching that snarky person at work? You can release energy and vent your frustrations through exercise. This will be doing your figure a favour, without running the risk of losing your job!
Exercise releases dopamine which is a pleasure chemical, making you feel better regardless of your day. Reduce stress by using negative feelings to gain a positive body and mind. I know what choice I’d be making…
Besides releasing your work frustrations, exercise helps in many other ways. It boosts your confidence to a whole new level. By pushing yourself, you’ll prove to yourself that you can overcome obstacles and achieve goals. You’ll believe in yourself, which can filter into other areas of your life.
Exercise makes you feel good inside. In time, that can reflect on the outside as well.
Moving your body boosts the brain in several ways. It creates neurotransmitters (such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor) that produce new brain cells. It also improves memory by increasing the size of the Hippocampus in the brain.
It sharpens the mind, making you more alert and aware of your surroundings. It improves mindfulness, allowing you to break from your thoughts and be in the moment. All the more reason to reduce stress with exercise.
What You’ll Lose if You Reduce Stress
Thanks to exercise, you can lose more than just fat.
Risk of Illness
It’s not all about how you look, but what’s going on underneath the surface. Exercise will improve your cardiovascular system (breathing and heart rate), so no more huffing and puffing through life.
Exercise affects your metabolism, having more control over insulin (a major factor of diabetes). It boosts your immune system, allowing you to stave off foreign viruses, and helps build muscle. Having a body that’s operating properly heavily impacts everyday stress levels.
Exercise can alleviate anxiety and depression in a number of ways:
- It interrupts repetitive thought patterns.
- It encourages you outdoors, boosting serotonin levels from the sun.
- Reduces mood swings by producing ‘feel-good’ chemicals in the brain.
- Encourages social interaction.
- Reduces dependency on external influences (alcohol, cigarettes, etc.)
- Raises self-esteem naturally.
Improving your overall mood and self-worth can help you cope better with stressful situations. Discover the benefits of Yoga here.
A Ton of Weight
It’s no secret that regular exercise–combined with healthy eating–can make a difference to your figure. It boosts your metabolism, allowing your body to burn fat more efficiently. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism.
Keeping fit and busy reduces emotional eating and boredom binges. It stimulates energy neurotransmitters in the brain, improving motivation and energy levels. Experts suggest the formula to weight loss is calories in vs calories out. Exercising regularly will help you burn off more calories than you consume. Carting around less weight can ease the stress from the body and mind.
Do Yourself a Favour
Taking action to reduce stress will improve your overall wellbeing. It can be something as simple as regular walks. By adding exercise to your routine, you have everything positive to gain and only negative things to lose. What else in life can give you so many benefits for free?
Want more tips to relieve stress? Here are 10 simple ways to relieve stress at home or the office.