All of us will are affected by stress at different times, and to different degrees. Stress, to a large extent, is unavoidable. How we deal with stress, and how we let it impact other facets of our lives, is more significant than whether or not we experience stress or not. Stress can, very easily, negatively impact our health -this is what we want to try and avoid.
Excess amounts of stress can make motivation difficult - we can feel tired and sluggish, making us not want to move, exercise or eat well. This could be either over, or under, -eating, drinking alcohol more frequently, or opting for lower quality food sources. Whatever it is, if stress is negatively impacting your food and exercise habits, then it is something we need to address.
The ironic thing is, exercise and good nutrition can often help manage or even reduce stress levels. It may become harder to at times of high stress, but following a healthy lifestyle regime becomes all the more important. Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins —chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers — and also improve our ability to sleep, which in turn can reduce stress. Studies show that exercise is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and at enhancing overall cognitive function. This can be especially helpful when stress has depleted your energy levels, and as a result, your ability to concentrate.
In addition to regular exercise, there are other healthy lifestyle choices that can increase your resistance to stress, or help you cope with it better. Try to continue to eat a healthy diet. Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress, so be mindful of what you eat. Start your day right with a good, nutritious breakfast, and keep your energy up and your mind clear with balanced meals throughout the day. Make a concerted effort to get enough sleep. Adequate sleep fuels your mind, as well as your body. Feeling tired will increase your stress because it may cause you to think irrationally.
When we are able to manage the stresses of our daily life, and maintain a consistent routine of exercise and nutrition, then we can produce amazing results. Take Monique, for example. She has an erratic schedule - always looking after other people and running around after them. However, she has routines in place to keep her on track. She plans her evening meals in advance, so she knows she has a nutritious meal at the end of the day. She walks her dog every day to make sure she is active and she schedules in her exercise for the week (at least 3-4 sessions) in advance to make sure she get it done.
As a result, she has made amazing progress over the past couple of months. She has managed to get stronger, fitter and improve her body composition - despite some busy, long days along the way. What could be potentially stressful and derail her has not negatively affected her at all!
So, what is the key takeaway here? Be organised, plan ahead and prioritise your nutrition and at least 1-2 hours of exercise each week. If you are able to manage this, then your chances of keeping your stress under wraps, and therefore keeping your progress on track, are greatly increased.