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Tips For Stress Free Living

From eDiets - The online diet, fitness, and healthy living resource

What exactly is stress? Stress is the response an organism makes to events that disrupt equilibrium and tax its ability to cope. To your body, anything, that causes a change in your daily life, be it good or bad, is considered stress. Imagining changes that have or have not occurred (worrying) is also taxing on our physiological system.

Stressors include: (1) emotional distress (arguing, disagreements, conflicts); (2) illness (3) overdriving yourself (working or playing too hard); (4) environmental factors (climate, high altitudes, pollution); (5) hormonal factors (puberty, pregnancy, premenstrual syndrome, menopause); (6) allergies; and (7) trying to take responsibility for anothers actions when you do not have control. All of these stressful situations tax our physiological system, and pose a challenge to our adjustment.

We already know that stress contributes to a lower immune system, which in turn makes us more susceptible to colds and flus, some cancers, heart disease, eating disorders, depression and anxiety disorders, other mental illness and cognitive deterioration – just to name a few!

In order to manage our stress, it is important that we first learn to identify our stress factors. There are basically two types of stressors: things that affect you from the external environment (external stressors) and those behaviors that are created within ourselves (internal stressors).

The daily external stressors are those that we all face, such as traffic, a broken refrigerator, misplacing important things, and so on. Other external stressors include dealing with your boss’s temper, your mate’s annoying habits, your best friend’s attitude, and major life events, such as the death of a loved one, a marriage, a new birth and so on.

The internal stressors are things that we have more control over and can alter if we so desire. These include: negative self-talk, living an unhealthy lifestyle, mental traps (cognitive distortions) and personality makeup.

What one person finds stressful, another person may find challenging and exciting. Before you can minimize the stress levels on your body, you must know where the stress is coming from! Keeping a stress journal (diary) is one of the best ways of pinpointing exactly what causes you stress. So, this is a list that you prepare specifically for your individual needs.

Pay attention to events as they occur. Each hour, record the time, the amount of stress you feel, what happened, where it occurred, and how you handled it. Review this journal after a couple of weeks to find patterns of your behavior. What worked? What didn’t work? How will you handle the stressor next time around?

Stress can cause a variety of eating challenges. As many folks turn to drugs, the food addict turns to food for comfort. There are other activities you can learn to engage in to help prevent stress-related overeating.

  1. Make your life more “regular.” Give yourself a regular time to go to sleep and wake up. It will set a frame of reference for your body.
  2. Give yourself a break. Write a list of things to accomplish each day, and take a break before you complete everything. If you don’t feel you have time to accomplish everything, don’t.
  3. Learn to say “no” to others who expect you to do everything. Let others take responsibility to prepare meals, clean and do errands.
  4. Do not make any unnecessary changes in your living environment.
  5. Manage your time. One third of our time should be spent on leisure and play.
  6. Exercise to rest your mind. Exercise allows the nerve cells in the brain to “relax,” and in turn, reduces our “worrying.” Any activity you can find to focus on, other than life’s problems, will rest your mind so the nerve cells will be able to function normally the next time they are needed.
  7. Keep your blood sugar steady. Refer to the eDiets dietitians for additional information concerning how often you must eat.
  8. Using food or drugs will prolong your problems and could lead to a potential cycle of addiction.
  9. Eliminate trigger foods that cause bad reactions. Any food that you crave is a brain-active food, which means you are craving it because it is directly affecting your brain. Use other activities in place of bingeing.

No one is stress free. Change is one thing that is held constant! However, we can all learn to manage our stress levels in order to live a long and healthy life.

Dr. Susan Mendelsohn is a licensed psychologist who works with a variety of addictions and specializes in managing eating disorders. In addition to teaching and maintaining a private practice, she counsels eDiets members online. Got a question for the doctor? Feel free to email her at drsusan@ediets.com.
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