For a healthier brain and body
You’re already busy, but throw in the desire to lose weight, and you can easily send your stress levels—and your weight—sky-high. Try these simple strategies to curb your stress for a healthier brain and body.
Most of us are under stress from one source or another. Whether it’s our career, relationships, or health goals, we’re busier than ever trying to meet the demands of our modern lives. Our bodies are paying the mental, emotional, and physical price for this busy habit. Regardless of whether the stressor is a spouse, our finances, or a deadline, our adrenal glands release a hormone called cortisol to keep us alert and ready for action. Cortisol increases blood sugar levels, resulting in crashes and cravings later in the day, and it causes the release of insulin, the hormone responsible for fat storage. When we experience stress, blood and nutrients are directed to the muscles, brain, and vital organs and away from the digestive system, which can lead to gas, bloating, and constipation. As you can imagine, this becomes problematic when stress is chronic, persisting over a long time. High cortisol levels are linked to weight gain, so getting a handle on your stress is essential for your weight-loss efforts. Implement one—or all—of these strategies to maintain weight loss and constructively cope with your stress.
Magnesium is often referred to as the “antistress mineral.” It’s responsible for relaxing muscles and aiding in sleep. Supplementing with magnesium may help relieve headaches, and it also plays a role in healthy glucose and insulin management. Magnesium is thought to be crucial for proper adrenal gland function and may be depleted in times of stress. Eating more dark green leafy vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grain brown rice may help, or check with your health care practitioner about supplements.
A poor night’s sleep results in higher levels of ghrelin, an appetite-stimulating hormone. Ever notice that when you’ve had a poor night’s sleep, you crave sweets and carbohydrate-rich foods? This is because these foods are high in glucose, which gives you an energy boost.
Aim to get eight or nine hours of sleep each night. If you’re feeling wired at bedtime, turn off computers and TVs and put your phone away at least one hour before bed. The screen’s blue light suppresses the release of melatonin, the hormone that makes you drowsy at night. If you need to use these devices, dim the light or download an app that does it for you.
Caffeine increases cortisol at rest, so during times of stress, you can expect your coffee habit to have a greater effect. If you’re a coffee lover, cut back on your consumption during times of increased stress. Switch to herbal tea to further counter cortisol and its fat-storing effects. There are many blends designed to calm and relax.