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Posts Tagged ‘Stress’

No, I’m not revealing the secret to how you can lose 5 pounds in one week and get the guy/girl of your dreams. If I knew that secret, I’d charge for it instead of throwing it out here on this blog.* Actually, I’m thinking about the struggle to lose weight while your life is moving at high speed. I’ve been under quite a bit of stress at work lately as I’ve been trying to wrap up three projects at once. It seems like as soon as I’m ready to finish one of them, something causes me to have to come back to it and continue to make changes. This is normal for my line of work but it can be one of the more annoying things that programmers have to deal with.

Between that and my schedule at home ramping up, things can feel a little out of control at times. When that happens, things start to feel stressful and your body has a tendency to really let you know that it’s not happy with what you’re doing to it. Times like this are bad even under the best of circumstances but when you’re trying to live mindfully and lose weight, it is a very stressful time indeed. I’m finding that as I feel stressed, the temptation to “eat on the run” goes up. When I think I can’t afford the time to get up from my desk to go eat a healthy lunch I’m really on thin ice. Convenience foods have an appeal in times like these than they may not have otherwise. After all, they’re meant to be made and consumed quickly right? Huray for a dehydrated, frozen, microwaveable salt block that is fully cooked in only 2 minutes and gone in 2 more. That leaves an entire minute to suck back a cold sugary beverage in your 5 minute lunch hour. Doesn’t that sound great? Not to me either. So, why is it that this becomes tempting to us? At what point does this become a good idea? I’m still not sure but so far I’ve done a pretty good job of not falling for the trap of convenience.

I think that a lot of it has to do with stress. When we don’t manage our stress, our stress manages us. In case you’re wondering, stress is kind of like a 12-year-old boy with Aspergers holding a magnifying glass standing in front of an anthill. In this analogy, you’re the ant. Stress never has our best interest in mind. It’s only concerned with keeping your body moving at a hyperactive level. In order to do that, it wants sugar and endorphins and carbohydrates in order to create as much energy in as short a period of time as possible. Guess what a good source of these things are? That’s right, convenience foods! These things are packed full of stuff that gives us a short-term boost and gets our body moving. Unfortunately, they’re also designed and packaged in a way to maximize consumption on our part. We end up wanting to eat more and more and we get trapped in a vicious cycle that can cause us to quickly lose control of our weight. It’s not a pretty picture and it’s one of the biggest ways that people who are trying to become healthy fail. Stress is just too big to fight sometimes and unless we’re prepared to face it, we can easily get stomped by it.

I’m sure that my diet hasn’t been as good as it could be right now but I’m still making choices and decisions that are healthy. This is because I’ve worked very hard at identifying how my body reacts to stress and I have made plans ahead of time of how to deal with it. So, how do I deal with the stress and still manage to eat healthy and if not lose weight, at least maintain my weight where it is? I’ve come up with a few tricks that work for me. Your results may vary and not everything works for everyone. However, feel free to give any of these a try if you want.

  1. Don’t forget to laugh. Laughter is helpful for your body. Never be so stressed out that you can’t take a few minutes to find something to laugh at. One place I turn to for some funny stuff is fark.com. It’s a “news” site that is always good for a few laughs. Another thing is to make some time to watch a funny movie or spend time with friends and share a laugh with them.
  2. Don’t forget to breathe. An awareness of your breath is a great way to make sure that you are paying attention to your body. It is so easy to lose focus when you’re stressed and once you lose your focus, it is easy to make poor choices. I have a mindfulness bell program that I have installed on my iPod and I have it set to ding every 30 minutes. When I hear it go off, I take just a few seconds to stop what I’m doing and focus on my breath. It keeps me in touch with my body and helps me to calm down.
  3. Don’t forget to keep things in perspective. Stress will always screw with your perspective on things. The fact is that almost everything that demands our attention and keeps us moving at a crazy rate isn’t as important as we think it is in the heat of the moment. There are times when we face life or death issues but they are quite rare in our wealthy western world. Even where I am, working in a hospital, I don’t feel the pressure of life and death hanging in the balance of what I do on a regular basis.
  4. Don’t forget what makes you happy. When we lose the proper perspective on things because of stress, we often lose sight of the things that give us joy or that make us happy. There are so many good things in our lives and we need to remember them. It’s taken me three days to write this post because I’ve been so busy. However, yesterday I was busy spending time with my kids going to the bookstore and a movie and a slot car race track and introducing them to the joys of Chicago style deep dish pizza and taking them for lunch and ice cream at Friendly’s that I just didn’t have time to worry about the things that are keeping me frantic in life. I made it a point to be with my kids and I played with them all day. It did wonders for my stress levels.

In addition to some of these things, I also have hobbies that I enjoy that help me to fight off stress. I love to cook and I love to write. I also have been having fun playing with my new Droid 2 phone and learning how to make it do some really cool stuff. I go to the Zen center every week and spend time with my Sangha and in meditation. Sure, stress can push us around, but we can push back. Hopefully as things calm down again, I can return to writing more frequently than I have the past week. Other than the stress, it’s been a great week and I’ve got a lot to share if I can ever find the time to do it.

* Actually, I do know it and will be happy to send you my new book about it if you send me three easy payments of $19.95

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