With a non-stop schedule and calendar that is double and triple-booked your precious time, it’s common to feel anxious, stressed and overwhelmed. Problem is, all that stress may be harmful for your health. There are different kinds of stress; such as mental and physical stress on your body. Both have the risk of affecting your health.
Stress can raise your cortisol levels, which is known as a key stress hormone. When there is excess amount of cortisol in your body, the desire to eat sweet and salty foods increases which can lead to weight gain and excess body fat. While it may be natural to reach for “comfort” food when you’re stressed, that will ultimately make your stress level worse. Those with high cortisol level are reported to snack more often in response to daily stressors. Eating to manage stress can ultimately lead to decreased mental health, poor eating and binge eating and a low-quality diet. Stress eating can also harm your health by increasing:
- Risk of Depression
- Weight Gain
- High Blood Sugar
- High Blood Pressure
- Digestive Problems
Instead of eating, here are seven ways to manage stress and naturally lower your cortisol levels:
Know your hunger cues. Listening to your body can help you understand if you are actually physical hungry or just having emotional hunger. Some signs that you are physically hungry are; having no negative emotions involved with eating, having a sensation of fullness, and having a signal to stop eating. Signs that are associated with emotional eating are feelings of guilt while eating or after for certain foods that do not give the sensation of fullness.
Know the signs. Recognize the signs of your body in response to stress. Some response signs to stress is when your body is having trouble sleeping, increased eating even when you are not hungry, feeling emotional or depressed, and when you body has no energy.
Sleep more. Having adequate sleep daily will help lower your level of cortisol. When there is an improvement in sleep schedule, your mind and body is resting properly which lowers your overall stress level.
Move more. Moderate exercise can help lower cortisol levels when night falls. During exercise your cortisol level increases due to the strain on your body but ultimately decreases cortisol levels at night. Exercise for thirty minutes a day, can improve your mood and reduce stress, even if it is just walking.
Chill out. Relaxing is important in lower your cortisol levels and is good way to manage your stress because you can just let go of everything that’s weighing you down and treating your body with love. There are many ways you can relax such as mediating, listening to music, reading or taking a bath.
Get a hobby. It’s important to figure out what you enjoy doing to unwind so try to find a hobby that you can do to help you relax.
Seek support. Having a positive support group surrounding you will allow you to have an outlet to express your worries, situations, or problems. Having a supportive group that can provide a lending hand when you need them will help too. You can also seek help through a heath professional, if needed.
Learn more about stress management through Mayo Clinic Staff.
This article was written by dietetic intern, Minhchau Tran.