Stress kills fitness

We are all familiar with the word stress, and while some of us have felt its repercussions a little more than others, it is a part of the life package deal with no opt-out button.

Stress can and has become a chronically ugly factor with negative physical and emotional side effects for a lot of people. Studies are linking stress to hypertension, heart disease and weight gain. Who in their right mind wants a whole bunch of extra fat with a heart attack waiting to happen weighing heavy on their stressed shoulders?

Without even realizing it, many of us are living in a constant state of stress. Whether it is from family problems, illness, financial strain, school, or unhappy relationships, we are accepting it as a normal way of life. Stress places wear and tear on our bodies, causing cortisol to leak out of the adrenal glands in abundance and increasing blood pressure. And let’s not forget waistlines! Let’s be real here: Stress is a straight up fitness killer. Unless we refuse to live in this constant state of being and implement healthy strategies to eliminate its toxicity, nothing is going to change.

Many use stressful situations to make excuses for crappy eating, give up on themselves and have a bitter, resentful attitude towards life. This of course leads to all that “comfort food” over-eating, no exercise, and blaming everyone else in the world for their self-induced problems. Chronic stress behaviors like this eventually lead to a body riddled with illness and unhappiness.

Stress can be either out of our control or fixable. Learning to let go and remove stresses that is not within our control is crucial to healthy boundaries and improving quality of life. Here are four healthy ways of dealing with stress.

Exercise or “poor man’s therapy” is perhaps one of the most overlooked strategies for de-stressing. Virtually any form of exercise, from aerobics to yoga, can act as a stress reliever. If you’re not an athlete or even in shape, you can still make a little exercise go a long way toward stress management. Exercise not only pumps up your endorphins, it helps keep you focused throughout the day while improving your mood and energy. Splitting your exercise time between crazy scheduling is another great option.

Next is to stay away from junk food. This includes chips, candy bars and processed foods. Try opting for foods such as yogurt, leafy greens, salmon, lean meats, blueberries, pistachios, dark chocolate, milk and oatmeal. These foods have been proven to work with the chemical makeup of our bodies to lower levels of stress hormones including cortisol and provide our bodies proper nutrition.

Drink up! Water, that is. Hydration is important for staying healthy and combating fatigue. After all, how much can you accomplish when you are feeling lethargic and cranky? Staying hydrated plays a huge role in stress management. When you don’t drink enough water, you may look to sweets to satisfy your craving. To keep your body healthy, your mind sharp and stress at bay, do not wait until your mouth is parched! A good rule to remember is 8×8- aim for eight 8 oz. glasses of water per day.

Lastly, sleep! Unfortunately, lack of sleep is also a key cause of stress. This vicious cycle causes the brain and body to get out of whack and only gets worse with time. Make it a point to get the doctor-recommended seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Maybe turn in earlier, try not to procrastinate with your homework, really manage your time and do your best to get into bed. This will help your body feel more refreshed and ready for a busy day. It may also be one of the most effective stress busters out there.

So next time you are feeling a bit overwhelmed by stress don’t hesitate to try one if not all of these health hacks. Happy de-stressing!