Stress & Sleep Management

Stress has got a bad rap over the last few years. Stress will NOT kill you, but an excessive response to it might. We all need a certain amount of stress in our lives. The problem arises when we constantly trigger our natural Fight or Flight response.

Over the years, my clients that have had most difficulty in losing body-fat have been those who were most stressed-out. Their elevated stress levels were working against them on two fronts. On a hormonal level, their raised Cortisol levels caused them to store more body fat around the abdominal area, and also suppressed the release of muscle-building hormones.

From a behavioural standpoint, these clients tended to skip meals, and when they did eat, their food choices were poor: fast food and sugary snacks. They usually also ate too food much at night.

If this sounds familiar to you, then try the following, to help keep you more balanced, and allow you to recover from your daily work and training regime.

  1. Relax: For some people, it’s reading a book or magazine, for others it may be listening to soothing music, meeting up with friends or even some quiet time alone. Just make sure that it’s something that you enjoy, and that it allows you to give your system a rest.
  2. Get Active: The level of activity will depend on your fitness level but it can vary from gentle exercise to a more rigorous workout. Regular exercise will help release endorphins a.k.a. the Happy Hormones.
  3. Plan Your Day: I get stressed when I feel that I haven’t the time or resources to do what I want to do. That’s usually caused by a lack of planning. By taking some time at the end of every day to plan what I can realistically achieve the next day, I find I’m more productive in my work, training and family life. Life will always be a juggling act between work, home and training. By planning ahead, you can help manage your daily commitments and ensure that stress works for you, not against you.
  4. Avoid worry: It’s been said that there are two things you shouldn’t worry about: things that you can control and things that you can’t. If you can control a situation, then do what needs to be done. If you can’t control it, then there’s no point worrying about it.
  5. Breathe: A very simple way of relaxing the body is to focus on taking long, slow breaths. The more relaxed your body is, the easier it will be to relax your mind.

Another area of fat loss that gets overlooked is a very simple one: sleep. Numerous studies show that those people who regularly have poor sleep are more inclined to put on weight. During a good night’s sleep, your body repairs itself physically and mentally. Physical repair typically occurs between 10pm and 2am, with mental recovery kicking in after 2am.

If you regularly go to bed around midnight, then you’re losing 2 hours of sleep which can build and repair muscle and increase your resting metabolism. You’re also more likely to have sugar cravings which result from disturbed sleep patterns. It sounds contradictory but you’ll carry less fat by sleeping more!

Try the following tips to make sure you get the most from your night’s sleep:

  1. Avoid sleeping on a full stomach. A light meal about two hours before bed time works best.
  2. Aim to be in bed before 10pm and asleep by 10.30pm.
  3. Avoid stimulants like caffeine or alcohol prior to bed time. Try night-time/relaxing herbal teas instead.
  4. Have your bedroom pitch-black. Use black-out blinds and avoid having landing/night-lights on.
  5. Unplug TVs, laptops, etc that are in your bedroom. Ideally mobile phones should be out of the room but if you must have them, avoid charging them in the bedroom and keep them as far away from your bed as possible. Get a battery operated alarm clock instead of a mains-operated clock radio.

Lack of quality sleep stresses you. And excessive amounts of low-level stress, on a long-term basis, can make you fat. So chill out, get to bed time on time and become leaner, more motivated and more energetic!

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