If there’s one thing that seems to go hand in hand with being a successful and results-driven woman, it’s stress. Bucket loads of the stuff. From a whole range of sources, usually. Work stress? Check. Relationship stress? Check. Achievement or success stress? Check. Stress about being good enough? Check. Stress about doing enough? Check. Body image stress? Check check check.
Most of us even stress about being stressed!
It’s enough to make me want to take the day off just writing this! And it’s not that we struggle with overt amounts of stress on a day-to-day basis, or that things regularly get so bad that we have full-blown anxiety or panic attacks – although of course that can happen. Much of the time, however, the stress eating away at us is nothing more than daily fatigue and busy-ness coupled with the internal angst that comes from knowing you’re never quite where you want to be.
I say ‘nothing more’ as though it’s not such a big deal, but the reality is that this sort of inner battle is a HUGE deal.
what gets YOUR heart pounding?
What is it that gets your heart pounding? (I don’t mean in a good way.) Perhaps it’s the stress of trying to tick off every item on your to-do list. Maybe it’s your constantly racing thoughts and mind as you rush from one thing to the next. Or it could just be the simple fact that you’re trying to be, do and have it all and never stopping to consider –
a) what ‘it’ is, and
b) whether you really want it anyway.
For many of us, this is what it comes down to. Living our lives in a way that is not congruent with either our internal values or simply doesn’t meet our physiological need for equal amounts of work, rest, and play (hold the eye-rolling please; this is not an impossible dream).
stress can be good?
The thing with stress is that it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps you’ve heard the term eustress? This is what’s known as positive stress and relates to struggle for and/or achievement of important things. Striving to meet an exercise, career, or personal goal are all examples of eustress. Basically it’s just anything that gets you excited and is worth working toward.
The problem, of course, is that it’s hard to look at any type of stress positively, or truly reap the benefits of eustress, when you’re constantly running yourself ragged.
And if you’re not careful, those positive events that cause you to reach, and improve, and become the best you possible, can turn into little more than another thing that ‘has’ to be done as you grind your way through your busy day.
Sound at all familiar?
stress, fat loss, and you
The reality is that any form of stress can be ‘turned’ negative in terms of the way it affects your body. Perhaps you’ve heard of the hormone cortisol? It’s commonly referred to as the stress hormone, and the reason for that is an unhealthy cortisol pattern has come to be associated with people who experience a high amount of stress in their lives.
Cortisol is an important hormone for giving you a natural morning kick-start, and it’s also crucial that your body is able to generate decent amounts of the stuff if a sudden stressful situation presents itself. But, as with anything, there can be (and often is) too much of a good thing.
When you constantly experience stress – even low level stress – you start to accumulate cortisol, and it can be very tough for your body to detoxify the stuff. Particularly if you’re not sleeping enough or taking time out (both of which are another form of cortisol-elevating stress!). If this sounds like you then it’s that you have a reverse cortisol curve – you find it tough to get going in the morning but come night-time you’re wired. Tired but wired. And you can’t sleep. It’s the beginning of a very serious, and very vicious cycle, and will lead to a number of undesirable outcomes.
- Increased fat storage – especially on the front of your stomach. Cortisol is a survival hormone, and for this reason its release triggers fat storage.
- Increased inflammation, making you more vulnerable to injuries, aches and pains
- Poor ability to sleep (that’s that vicious cycle)
- Impaired digestion
- A foggy mind or poor mental focus
- Rapidly changing emotions and moods
- Poor willpower when it comes to eating well and exercising
who stresses most? girls come out tops!
I’ve heard it said that stress is the disease of success, and I think this really applies to women. Of course a person doesn’t have to be successful to experience high amounts of stress in their life, but in some ways the stress associated with success and with high-achiever types (like yourself, I’m sure, or you probably woulnd’t be on this blog) is more dangerous.
Certainly it’s more insidious, which is why I say that. I’m talking about the things you possible don’t even realise are causing you stress and elevated cortisol levels.
- Not taking time to eat a meal as a meal
- Skipping or delaying breakfast
- Staying in a job or relationship that doesn’t quite fit your idea of ‘you’
- A lack of sleep or proper rest – yes, even if you stayed up doing something you enjoyed
- Too little exercise
- Too much exercise
- The wrong sort of exercise
- Grains, sugars, processed dairy or any processed food – all of which will increase inflammation
- The pressure you put on yourself to continually do or be more
- Exposure to environmental stressors and toxins
- Poor nutrition
- Excessive body fat
- A lack of supplementation
- Failing to take time for yourself and to determine what you really want from life – and failure to invest time on things that are important to you.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Besides, even reading this list is probably getting you a little stressed out thinking of all the things you ‘should’ change!
take back control of ‘you’
The reality is that while you do have control over a lot of things on this list, there are many stressful situations or aspects of life that you cannot control. Which means that managing stress and taking back control of your hormones as well as how you look and feel is really a two-part process.
1. Put steps into place to reduce excessive stress that you can control (as a fantastic starting point for that you’ll want to read the rest of the Woman Incredible foundation pages, which you’ll find back under the ‘you‘ page)
2. Realise that much of how you feel and the stress you accumulate is a product of how you choose to see the world – which therefore means you DO have control.
you think your busy life is impressing anyone?
Okay. You have to stop kidding yourself. It’s not impressive to be the busy person, the one who always says how tired she is and how much she has to do. Being flat out all the time is no fun for you and it makes you no fun for everyone else. Calm is impressive. Focus is impressive. And these are things you do have a choice about. Like it or not, everything you’re doing in your life and the way you choose to let it affect you is within your control.
Let’s talk about some ways that you can take back control of you, and finally start to feel free.
- Once you take time to recognise that maybe it’s okay to let a few things go, you’ll want to determine your values. It can be tough to figure out what is really important to you or ‘what your heart truly desires’ but it’s a process that can be see as nothing short of the best investment you’ll ever make. And it’s one that you’ll probably want to come back to time and again as your goals and dreams evolve.
- Next, take action and start living according to these values and dreams. Simple, yet oh so difficult for some reason. But really, all it takes is slowly but surely placing one foot after another. Think about what you could do first (maybe stop obsessively checking email and FB). Then think about what you could do next. Make the steps easy and achievable at first.
- Learn to embrace the power of less. Multi-tasking is a crock and will rob you of your ability to feel in control of your life.
- Make an effort to learn when to put pressure on yourself and when to let go. Do you really have to check Facebook 200 times a day? Do you have to respond to every email, phone call or text you get right away – if at all? Do you have to continually push aside your own goals or even day-to-day plans just because somebody else ‘needs’ you? And is it really the best thing to jump straight into each day headfirst and never stop to consider what is truly important for that day, or what you’d like to get out of it?
The truth is that it takes a lot of guts and a hefty dose of self-worth to generate the power you need to take back control of your life in this way. And it’s certainly not something that will happen overnight. Learning to live your life in a calm and measured manner will take time, and you’ll certainly fail repeatedly. But – as with anything worth striving for – you’ll pick yourself up and most likely come back stronger for that so-called failing.
Nothing worth achieving was ever reached in one hit. And aren’t you worth creating a life of control and calm? And wouldn’t you love to regain that carefree way of life you once had?
Surely at least some of the time?
Life is Now. Press Play.