You can take simple steps to help reduce daily stress

Here are a few great ways to reduce your daily stress:

— Drive to work in reverse.

— Make a list of things you have already done.

— Bill your doctor for the time you spent in his waiting room.

— Read the dictionary backwards and look for subliminal messages.

And my personal favorite: When someone says “Have a nice day!” tell them you have other plans.

For me the month or two following the holidays is more stressful than the holidays themselves. Putting the Christmas decorations away, the shock of looking at your bank account and the dread of heading back to work are just some of the things that can peg out our stressometers.

Psychologists who study health behavior have found that when people are experiencing negative emotions, such as stress, depression, anxiety, anger or sadness, the need to cope with the negative emotion becomes a top priority. The need to feel better right now overrides the drive to do something that may lead to future benefits. One of those feel better fixes, unfortunately, is the need to overeat.

When our body is under stress, we release a hormone called cortisol into the blood stream. While cortisol helps regulate blood pressure, insulin and preserve energy for the body, it is some of these very functions that may contribute to stressed-out weight gain. While researchers debate the extent that excess cortisol plays a part in weight gain, there are many other factors that come into play.

— Metabolism: Do you sometimes feel like you are prone to putting on more weight when you are experiencing a stressful life event even if eating the same amount of food as before? Too much cortisol can slow your metabolism.

— Cravings: Ever notice when you are way stressed out your cravings get out of control? People under chronic stress crave more fatty, salty and sugary foods. When under stress you are much more likely to dive into some cookie dough ice cream than a green salad. If you are experiencing a stressful life event, try to keep the danger foods out of the house.

— Blood sugar levels: Prolonged periods of stress can alter your blood sugar levels, causing mood swings and fatigue. When your blood sugar is out of whack, this can cause you to gain weight as well. When you are stressed, make sure to eat frequent small meals to avoid sugar highs and lows.

— Fat storage: Some research indicates that cortisol increases during long periods of stress can lead to increased abdominal fat. High levels of abdominal fat are linked to increased risks of heart disease and some cancers. While there is some connection, be wary of weight-loss products that claim to reduce cortisol levels. Your best bet is healthy eating and exercise.

While the jury is still out on whether or not enough cortisol is released in every person every time they are stressed to contribute to weight gain, there are other factors that come into play when our body is under the gun. Stress causes many people to be “emotional eaters” or to eat out of boredom or nervousness instead of hunger. You can avoid emotional eating by avoiding mindless snacking. Fast foods are another culprit during times of stress. To avoid this pitfall, carry a small cooler to work filled with healthy alternatives. Finally, when you are stressed and don’t feel like exercising, do it any way. Exercise can actually improve your mood, your self image and get your mind off of what you are eating and what is eating you.

Kathy Hansen has over 20 years of experience in the health and fitness field and plans to de-stress at Crossfit. She can be reached via e-mail at

Kathy Hansen has over 20 years of experience in the health and fitness field and plans to de-stress at Crossfit. She can be reached via e-mail at

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