No doubt about it. The Holidays are one of the busiest and most stressful times of the year. And one of the biggest contributors to the stress is the threat of holiday weight gain. Ironically, when it comes to gaining weight during the Holidays, food isn’t your only enemy. Stress – more specifically, the effects of stress on your body can cause you to really pack on the pounds.
When you experience stress, your body releases a ‘hormone cocktail’ which includes epinephrine, nor-epinephrine, adrenaline and cortisol. Together, these hormones work to give you the speed and strength you need to escape dangerous situations. This hormonal ‘kick-in-the-pants’ is called the ‘fight or flight’ response.
Back in the day when we were a little closer to nature, this ‘fight or flight’ response acted as our defense mechanism, providing us with what we needed to escape raging wooley mammoths or fierce saber toothed tigers. Escaping wild life requires a great deal of energy. If, when caught by
surprise, you didn’t have sufficient energy levels, you would quickly find yourself on the wrong end of the food chain.
The hormone responsible for providing you with life-saving energy is cortisol. Simply, cortisol releases carbohydrates and fat from their places of storage and breaks down muscle tissue which can be processed into a useful fuel for the brain and muscles.
Once the threat is gone, cortisol signals the body to refuel by increasing your appetite. Unfortunately, in today’s day and age, our need to escape wildlife has been greatly diminished and has been replaced with dangerously aggressive drivers, overbearing relatives, overdue reports, defiant children and so much more less physically demanding sources of stress.
The increase in appetite combined with greatly reduced physical activity and a never-ending supply of Holiday treats spells…
Four simple things you can do to reduce the effects of stress and cortisol include…
1. Take regular timeouts
Whether you take a leisurely walk, spend time meditating or read a good book. Taking time to do something just for you will help keep stress levels manageable. The timeout needn’t be long. Simply taking 15 minutes to relax and unwind can do wonders. One easy way to lower stress levels is using
self-hypnosis. I’ve been using it for years and have found it very beneficial.
2. Enlist help
Don’t feel like you have to be the Holiday martyr. Delegate tasks to other members of the family. For example, ask different family members to bring separate dishes for the big meal.
3. Get plenty of sleep
Sleep helps to re-energize the body and allows you to function with more clarity and mental focus. This results in being able to accomplish more in less time.
**NOTE: Since first writing this article, I came across a program which I found absolutely exciting. It’s called Powerful Sleep.It will make you re-think everything you have ever heard or believed about the old rule about having to get 8 hours of sleep a night. If you are a busy person and regularly find yourself wishing there were more hours in a day, you may find Powerful Sleep
4. Get some exercise
Talk to any medical, health or fitness expert and they will all agree that one of the very best things you can do to combat the negative effects of stress and cortisol is to exercise.
Exercise releases stress-fighting endorphins and can lower cortisol levels and helps burn off excess calories that inevitably come with the Holidays.
I know, I know. You’re busy and just don’t have time to exercise. There’s no need for you to spend hours exercising in order to reap the benefits of exercise. In as little as 20 minutes a day you can see dramatic results. Resolve to make this your most enjoyable Holiday season yet. Take time to enjoy everything that makes the Holidays a wonderful time of year.