We’ve all experienced stress in one form or another, right? Whether it’s a tight deadline for an assignment, financial troubles, relationship woes, or a life-threatening encounter, stress can arise in many different shapes and sizes.
What is stress?
In its simplest form, stress is a situation that triggers a certain biological response. When your body and brain perceive a threat or a major hurdle, hormones and chemicals will ultimately begin to surge throughout your body. In turn, this triggers your fight-or-flight response, to either stay and fight the stressor head on or run away from it. Once you’ve responded to the threat, your body should then return to a relaxed state.
So, is stress good or bad?
Well, technically it can be both good and bad. I mean, everything in moderation, right?
Contrary to popular belief, stress isn’t a taboo word and nor is it something we should wish to rid from our lives completely. In actual fact, stress is perhaps our most important survival mechanism. It’s what helped keep our hunter-gatherer ancestors alive when they were faced with legitimate life-threatening situations, like outrunning sabre tooth tigers. When you sense danger, your brain reacts by sending nerve and hormone signals to your adrenal glands, which then release several hormones. Simply put, these hormones are nature’s way of getting you geared up to face danger and increase your rate of survival.
When is stress bad then? While stress is certainly still important for everyday experiences - such as meeting work deadlines and protecting yourself from life-threatening encounters - the situations we experience today don’t require the amount of stress our bodies are still experiencing. Believe it or not, in today’s society, many of us aren’t experiencing the temporary stress that we should be, instead, we’re experiencing severe and prolonged stress that can cause mental and physical health problems - including weight gain.
How can stress cause weight gain?
During periods of heightened tension, the stress hormone, cortisol, rises. As a result, increased cortisol may also cause higher insulin levels and drop blood sugar, causing you to crave sugary and fatty foods. The result? You’re more likely to overeat unhealthy foods!
On that note, are you keen to add 5 stress management strategies to your routine to help improve fat loss? Keep reading!
Tip 1: Exercise
Exercise is one of the most effective ways to combat stress, while simultaneously working on your physical health. As ironic as it might sound, putting physical stress on your body, by way of exercise, can relieve mental stress.
Did you know that people who exercise regularly are less likely to experience anxiety, as opposed to those who don’t exercise? And here’s why:
Sleep - Exercising regularly can help to improve the quality of your sleep, due to the way it physically exhausts your body. As stress and anxiety are known to negatively impact sleep quality, this can help to alleviate the symptoms.
Endorphins - Did you know that exercise helps to release endorphins, which are chemicals that improve your mood and act as natural painkillers? Additionally, exercise is also suggested to lower the body’s stress hormones over a prolonged period, including cortisol.
Confidence - Who doesn’t feel better after breaking a sweat? When you exercise regularly, you’re likely to feel more confident and comfortable in your own skin, which ultimate enhances mental wellbeing and reduces stress.
Tip 2: Get your sleep right
When you’re experiencing stress, you’re more likely to lay awake at night restless and unable to get a good night's sleep. However, the lack of sleep also causes stress, which means it’s a never-ending cycle. The cherry on top? When we lack sleep, we crave a quick source of energy, such as sugary treats, which often leads us further away from our health and fitness goals. Not to mention, a lack of sleep may also interfere with key appetite hormones, ghrelin and leptin.
A lack of sleep can leave you feeling irritated and overwhelmed with simple tasks and lacking the motivation, energy, enthusiasm and brainpower required to give your best efforts to the task at hand. Experts recommend a minimum of 7-10 hours of sleep per night for optimal health!
So, how can you improve your stress by improving your sleep cycle?
Two to four hours before bed - Avoid any intense exercise that will make you alert and buzzing. Also, avoid large meals that will keep you up at night while your body works hard to digest everything.
One hour before bed - Reduce the amount of artificial light surrounding you by dimming your lights or putting a lamp on. Also, switch your screens to night mode. This will help to increase melatonin, which helps to get you into a sleepy state.
30 minutes before bed - Switch off all electronic devices and screens. If you need your phone alarm for the morning, simply switch your phone to aeroplane mode to minimise any distractions that may disrupt your sleep!
Tip 3: Always make downtime a priority
Do you often get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life and forget to take time out for yourself? Whether it’s the mental stresses associated with work deadlines and pressure, the physical stress of exercise, or the mental and physical stress of raising little ones, there are many reasons why we just sometimes don’t find the time to put ourselves first. However, the downside is, without our ‘me time’, our happiness, motivation, and potential for success greatly diminish.
When you subject yourself to extreme pressure and stress day-after-day, without taking time out to recuperate, you are not only preventing yourself from performing at your highest level, you’re also exposing yourself to a greater risk of illness and disease. Truth be told - your body will not perform or look the way we want it to if you’re constantly subjecting yourself to physical and mental stress. Not long after the mental symptoms kick in, the physical symptoms will start to show!
Try incorporating the following ‘me time’ tips into your weekly schedule:
Recovery time - Dedicate one day a week or a month to ‘recovery time’. This should be time spent relaxing and unwinding. For instance - Get a massage, go to the movies alone, read a book, treat yourself to a facial etc.
Note: make sure you take this seriously and value this time as much as you would an important work meeting or training session. Don’t skip or delay this important meeting with yourself.
Learn new skills - We spend so much time bettering our skill set to progress in our careers, but how much time do we really spend improving our skills to better ourselves as people? For most of us, the answer will be: never. So, we urge you to find a skill you’d like to learn - whether it be photography, drawing, running, a language - and commit to it for six months. Never underestimate how important learning is and how much it can influence our mental health!
Change up your routine - It’s easy to become stagnant in your routine and your attitude when you do the same things at the same time every day. Whether it’s your workouts or your downtime, try switching things up to keep your routine fresh and exciting.
Tip 4: Practise mindfulness
Practising mindfulness is a great way to observe your thoughts and feelings without judgement. It allows you to look at yourself from a logical perspective, rather than emotional, which can ultimately help to clear your mind, make you more aware of your feelings, and even curb your cravings.
Many of our problems can be sold or at least understood and handled better by dedicating enough directed thought and energy to the issue at hand. In this day and age, we usually have several different projects on the go, we receive various types of auditory and visual stimulation and distractions just about everywhere we go. Constant distractions can make it difficult to keep a single train of thought at any given time, add a stressful lifestyle into the mix, and our brains don't quite perform how we would like them to.
Never practised mindfulness before and not sure where to start? Try adding these simple tips to your daily routine:
Set aside no more than five to 10 minutes each day to practice the art of deep breathing, yoga, or by listening to soothing music. You’ll find many fantastic resources online, via YouTube, or through the app store, including our top picks:
Start keeping a journal of your thoughts and feelings that are directly related to any stressful encounters or experiences. This will help you make sense of your feelings and to actively brainstorm solutions, rather than bottling it up internally.
Don’t be afraid to seek help from those around you. When stress is at an all-time high, we very easily become too overwhelmed to find the solutions within yourself. As such, getting an outside perspective - whether it's from friends, family or a therapist - is a great way to lift the weight off your shoulders and to seek external support.
Tip 5: Decrease stress with supplementation
Do you feel like you’ve tried just about everything and are still unable to reduce the stress from your life? Perhaps it’s time to call on the help of a friend. Yep, we’re talking about supplementation!
When we’re lacking sleep and energy, most of us will instinctively turn to caffeine for an energy hit. The problem is that although caffeine might work in the short term, the long terms effects of relying on caffeine for energy will eventually start having a negative effect on your training, along with increasing cortisol levels. A prolonged increase in cortisol incurred by relying on caffeine for energy will only make your efforts towards your goals of fat loss or muscle gain feel like you're fighting a losing battle.
If you’re looking for the right supplement to enhance energy, improve wellness and reduce stress, it’s important to find one that won’t leave you feeling scattered and run down once it wears off. So, what do we recommend? * drum roll * Project U Vitality!
Containing a range of cutting-edge ingredients that are designed to help stimulate brain function, support gut health, boost energy, enhance mood and lower cortisol, Project U Vitality is the ideal supplement for anyone wanting to get more out of their health and functionality.
Let’s take a look at what’s inside:
Apple Cider Vinegar - This ingredient has been added to the formula owing to its age-old benefits in improving overall health, aiding digestion, supporting gut health and acting as a natural antibacterial and antioxidant.
Lemon Balm - In addition to supporting digestive health, Lemon Balm is suggested to help increase GABA in the body, which may have a calming effect powerful enough to help lower cortisol levels and reduce anxiety.
Moringa Leaf Powder - This ingredient is made up of a potent source of vitamins and minerals that boast rich antioxidant properties and natural anti-inflammatory benefits.
Reishi Mushrooms - To help keep your immune system in check, Reishi Mushrooms have been added to the mix, which are suggested to have powerful immune-boosting properties, in addition to helping fight fatigue, increase energy and improve mood.
Huperzine A - To help boost memory and neuro function
Cognizin Citicoline - This ingredient is a patented CDP Choline product that works by increasing nootropic activity while helping to reduce age-related memory impairment and boost attention and learning.
Tyrosine - This ingredient is suggested to help improve alertness and mental performance and reduce the negative effect of stress on memory.
Lion’s Mane -This extremely powerful mushroom may help to improve memory, relieve symptoms of anxiety, boost immune health, reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, and help speed up recovery from nervous system damage.