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Dr Kathleen Hartford

Dr Kathleen Hartford

OVERCOMING STRESS – THE MAJOR BLOCK TO HEALTH AND WELLNESS

The information below is from the newsletter of an esteemed colleague and friend of mine from South Africa.

Hello friends, clients and colleagues:

I see so many wonderful people in my practice who often come to me for issues unrelated to health or weight even though their health and weight are often far from ideal, too.  The one thing they all have in common is a stress level that has gone way beyond a level they can cope with.  Sadly they often feel there are no other options so they have given up on feeling healthy/fit/well and often even happy!

The big thing to remember is that stress is always subjective.  What feels unbearable to one may feel easy to another.  It doesn’t matter what others think of your personal stress levels, it all boils down to how they make you feel and how you manage to cope with them.

Most people assume stress is unchangeable and a part of life so they try to ignore their stress levels saying things like “you try being stress free when you have kids” or “do you know how much pressure I have at work?” or “what am I supposed to do…give up my life?”

Here’s the thing…if you’re ignoring your stress levels, you might as well just be reaching for junk food!   Because, generally if you don’t deal with your stress levels, you’ll relapse on healthy eating and exercising habits.  Stress is the key in a vicious cycle that eventually will lead to ill health and chronic disease.  Most visits to doctors have stress as the root cause of one’s symptoms.

And STRESS affects EVERYTHING when it comes to health…from your hormone levels, to your ability to stay on a healthy diet, to your ability to maintain exercise habits and get quality sleep.   If you want to feel healthy/look good/have energy or even just have peace of mind – the number one thing you need to change is the level of stress in your life.

Realistically, very few of us have the luxury to completely change our lives so it is crucial to add stress relief to your everyday routine. Remember you didn’t reach your levels of stress overnight so they are not going to totally change overnight either! Like with everything, it takes time to change and create new habits.

Learn techniques to reduce stress and try sneaking in one or two each day.  Even just five minutes in the morning and five minutes at night, will start making a difference to your stress levels over time.

Daily Tips for Stress Relief

  • Visualizing a stress-free place and other relaxation techniques are quick and easy ways to help your whole body calm down and give you just the boost you need to get on with your day.  Literally just closing your eyes and thinking of an image that relaxes you — such as the warm sun on your skin and the sound of the ocean, a big country field sprinkled with flowers, or a trickling stream will help you reduce your stress levels.
  • Take Serenegen – This is a wonderful supplement to bring down cortisol levels which are a big factor in weight gain.
  • Try hypnosis – hypnosis has also been proven to reduce the flight or fight response which is often over stimulated by stressful living.
  • Meditation/visualisation cds – listening to a cd which has been designed to reduce stress is also a wonderful tool.  There are many on the market so it is just about finding the voice/sounds that suites you.  You may like to hear chirping birds, rolling waves, or gentle rain — whatever your choice, closing your eyes and listening to these soothing sounds while doing some deep breathing can help you relax and de-stress.
  • Look out a window. Distract yourself for a few minutes when things feel too much by focusing on something other than what’s stressing you.  Grab a steaming cup of coffee or tea, close the door, and take a mental break.  Do a little people watching, appreciate any birds within view, or enjoy some fluffy clouds rolling by.  Allow yourself to daydream for a few minutes.
  • Deep Belly Breathing – breathing right down into your belly, filling your lungs and holding for a second before exhaling slowly will help your body re-balance itself.  This type of deep breathing done for even 5 minutes at a time will greatly reduce stress levels.
  • Meditate for five minutes a day.  Sit up straight and focus your attention on your breath.  When your mind wanders, as it will, just relax and observe, bringing you attention back to your breath.  Over time you will notice it becomes easier and you will start to look forward to these quiet moments.
  • Make a plan for dealing with what stresses you.  What will you do when things go wrong?  Don’t leave your answer to chance or your whims; instead, write out a plan, however simple.  If you find yourself snapping at your children when they’re running late, make a plan for what you’ll do when they’re dawdling and you are in a big, big hurry.  Write out what you’ll do instead of yelling — e.g., take deep breaths, walk away from the car, etc.
  • And when you do mess up?  Forgive yourself and move on.  You are only human, and judging yourself as a bad parent or lazy slob will make you less likely to meet your goals, and more likely to give in to any unhealthy habits.
  • Sleep.  That means becoming more disciplined with your bedtime routine. Try avoiding emails, stressful or stimulating programs or work related topics AT least an hour before bed.  Make your room as peaceful as possible and try keeping light and noise to a minimum.
  • And the obvious!  Too much caffeine, alcohol, sugar and fast foods will add to your stress by chemically and physically altering your body’s health and hormonal responses.  The fewer nutrients you are putting in your body, the harder it is for your body to keep in balance and cope with stressful situations.

And lastly, remind yourself WHY you are trying to improve your stress levels, and what you will lose if you give up.  Why are you trying to start new habits or quit your old one?  Be honest as you do this; remind yourself what you really want, rather than what you think you should want.  For example, I could tell myself, or my friends, that I’m exercising more because I want to be a good role model for my children (what I should want).  But what I really want even more than that is to fit into my jeans and feel healthy.  Research suggests that these less moralistic motives tend to be more effective in the long run and motivate us more.

So ask yourself, frequently: How do you want to feel? Then visualize what you will lose if you let your stresses control your life.

Warm regards,
Lesley Wood
www.weight-masters.com

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