Stress & Depression
When I was in high school, my homeroom teacher came up to me and said “you’re walking the fence Bonnie.” I knew exactly what he meant and I’ll never forget it (or him, Coach Youngblood). While he was talking about how I acted at school verses how I acted at church, I believe this same condition (walking the fence) happens to all of us in many different areas of our life – including fitness. People have so much unnecessary stress in their life because they “walk the fence” with their diet, with exercise, with relationships, with finances and absolutely with their spiritual life. This “condition”, I’ll call it, causes so much discontentment, frustration, restlessness, resentment, anger, bitterness, conviction and conflict. Why? Because you want peace, but your body and mind are in conflict. You know what you WANT, but you aren’t doing what you NEED to do to get it. You are “walking the fence”.
For example, you want to get fit, but you aren’t fully committed to the diet. In this case, every time you eat poorly, every time you weigh yourself, or every time you don’t like the way you look in clothes, you are filled with regret, guilt, conviction, stress and disappointment. In addition, every time you are with your fit little friend, you are uncomfortable. A matter of fact, you are actually downright grouchy and feel even worse because she’s a constant reminder of what you should be doing. As a result, you may even avoid your fit friends or avoid the gym. Listen, there is more to life than how we fit in our jeans. I admit, I like myself better at a certain weight, but what I like more is the peace I have with myself when I am taking care of my body and living right (or at least trying!!). I refuse to live a life buried in guilt and discouragement from letting my life get out of control. While I sure do enjoy feeling thinner and fitter, I also enjoy the peace of knowing I am doing what is healthy and good.
Maybe your issue isn’t with food or fitness. Maybe it’s with relationships or with God. No matter what you are wrestling with, if you are filled with conviction, anger, frustration and restlessness, it’s often because you keep doing what you WANT to do and resisting what you SHOULD do. Once you want peace more than whatever you are currently craving, change will happen and peace will come. Joyce Meyer said peace finally came in her home when she wanted peace more than she wanted to be right. How often do we trade peace for something temporary? There is simply NO PEACE when you are on the fence. You can’t “rest” on the fence. On the fence, there is indecisiveness, conviction, conflict and restlessness. Peace requires commitment – the commitment to do what you need to do, not just what you want to do. It’s the decision to get off the fence and get on the RIGHT side of life. Depart from evil and do good; seek, inquire for, and crave peace and pursue (go after) it! Psalm 34:14 I LOVE this scripture!! If you crave peace, don’t wait for it to come to YOU, chase after it, seek it, pursue it, do everything you need to get it – and depart from the things that are getting in the way of peace. What are you not willing to “depart” from? Are you trading peace for food? Are you trading peace for what makes you feel good in the moment? You know which side of the fence you should be on so what are you waiting for? Seriously, what is more valuable than peace?
Worrying Can Cause:
- Lack of sleep or insomnia
- Panic attacks
- Fast heart rate
- Inability to concentrate
- Muscle tension and muscle aches
Web MD explains that when you worry for a long time, you have excessive fuel in the blood that isn’t used properly (like pinned up energy to use for exercise or activity), which can cause a host of other major problems like:
13. Suppression of the immune system
14. Digestive disorders
15. Short-term memory loss
16. Premature coronary artery disease
17. Heart attack
Stress is not what causes health problems. It’s how you handle stress in your life. If you don’t handle it well (or at all), and you just worry about it – eventually it WILL come out and attack your body. You cannot pin all that anxiety up without exploding eventually.
6 Ways to Handle Stress Better
If you catch yourself worrying, here are a few things you can do to control it so it doesn’t affect your health:
- Exercise - People who worry, tend to be very frustrated because they can’t do anything about their current problem. Exercise, hands down, is the best way to relieve stress and get out your frustrations. It also will help you fall a sleep better so you don’t stay up thinking about your problems.
- Eat healthy - You need to fuel your body with good food if you want to feel good. Unfortunately, people who deal with a lot of stress tend to eat poorly, and eat more – as if to get some type of temporary satisfaction when they are so unsatisfied with other areas of their life. Poor choices may help you feel better for a moment, but they will leave you lacking the energy you need to handle the rest of the day – and the weight you gain will leave you even more discouraged.
- Slow down - many people who are stressed out, try to keep busy to keep their mind off things. They tend to work longer hours, stay entertained, avoid quiet and self-medicate themselves with alcohol or drugs. What they need most is what they avoid most – silence. This is where yoga is very good. You get to stretch tense muscles, control your breathing, meditate and even pray. Remember, you can’t go 100 miles an hour without eventually crashing. You need to purposely slow your body down to prevent wrecking your health.
- Rest - This is something that often times will not come naturally. You will have to FORCE your body to rest. Even if that means taking a mild sleep aid (like Tylonel PM), it is imperative you get the rest you need to stay both physically and mentally healthy. If you miss rest, you are setting yourself up for a ton of other problems – and you’ll have even more to worry about, with no energy to do anything about it.
- Limit or avoid stimulates – If you are a big coffee drinker or smoker, you are probably making things worse. You need relaxation, not stimulation. If you don’t plan to give it up, then you need to give your body a way to blow off steam. Take a walk or jog, workout, play a game of tennis, go to the batting cages or driving range, or take some boxing lessons. If you are going to stimulate your body, let your body use that stimulation to be active.
- Get help – If you feel you can’t do any of these things on your own, or you have tried them and you are still dealing with excessive stress and anxiety, see a doctor. Seek professional counsel and talk with a friend. It is super important that you have people who care about you monitoring you, supporting you, and helping you through this difficult time. Whatever you do, don’t go it alone.
Are you a chronic worrier? Read 9 Steps to End Chronic Worrying
Most of us have done this before. We skip a few workouts, and before you know it, we are eating crappy, eating too much, feeling fat, and just eating more and more. Here are 3 chemical reasons why we EAT MORE when we skip our workouts – and if you think about it, these same reasons are also often times why we WORKOUT LESS.
1. WE ARE TIRED. Ironically, one of the reasons we skip workouts is because we are too tired. However, many times we still don’t give our body the rest it needs to recover. We continue to go, go, go. Since calories are energy, some experts say our body craves calories because it knows it will wake us up and energize us. However, what we probably need is just a really good night sleep so we wake up refreshed and energized the healthy way.
2. WE ARE STRESSED. Many times we skip a workout because we are stressed out and can’t focus. When we are stressed, we often don’t feel like being around people and we just want to hide – so extra social events like going to the gym get the ax. Also, the more people are stressed, the less they sleep. So #1 is already in play. Researchers say that when we are stressed our body releases more cortisol, which is a stress hormone. Some reports indicate that increased cortisol is linked to increased belly fat and increased cravings. Then there is just the “woe, is me” part. The more stressed we get, the more sorry we feel for ourselves, and the more we decide we deserve the ice cream because it’s been “such a rough day”. The best way to combat stress, is sleep and exercise. If you want to combat stress eating, you have to combat the stress.
3. WE ARE BORED. We are too tired to workout and to stressed to think – so we plop down on the couch to “relax”. Since we skipped our workout, we actually have MORE time to do nothing (and more time to eat!). Although we probably should go to bed, we don’t, because we don’t like missing out on anything. Instead, we stalk Instagram, check facebook, tweet a couple of folks, surf, or turn on the good ole boob tube. These things stimulate us enough to keep us awake enough to not miss anything, but not relaxed enough to get the rest our body needs.
Like Ricky Bobby said in Talladega Nights, “I’m not sure what to do with my hands?” we don’t know how to stay still. We rarely sit that still – and as soon as we do, we want to be entertained. Normally, that includes food. Again, if you want to prevent boredom eating, tackle #1 so you aren’t too tired to spend time exercising, tackle #2 so you aren’t craving food and work on #3 and limit your “still time” or learn how to control your hands – and your tongue.
Break the Cycle
Sadly, if we don’t break the cycle, the more we eat, the more depressed we get – and that fuels more lack of sleep, more stress and more boredom because we normally retreat. We also feel hopeless because we feel too far away from our goal. Instead of looking at why we eat crappier when we workout less, let’s look at why we eat better when we workout more.
When we workout, we work HARD to burn calories. Since just how hard we worked is fresh in our head, we are less likely to sabotage that work. The key is, it has to be a regular thing. It’s not like we can work hard last week and that be enough to make us want to protect last week’s investment. Muscle soreness, being in the gym, being around other inspiration people and sweating your butt off TODAY is what you need to help give you the motivation you need to eat right TODAY.
Sometimes, that feeling is enough to last you a couple of days – but once you’ve missed a bunch of days, forget it. We lose that connection between work and calories. It not real enough to us anymore. That’s also why it’s much harder to diet without exercise. Exercise is like your job and food is like your money. You’ll never be frugal with free money, but if you work hard for it, you’ll be a lot more cautious how you spend it. This is also why the work must be a little tough. When you work REALLY hard for something, you bet you’ll be a lot less likely to blow that hard work on a something silly. One, because you realize all the hard work you just did and, two, because you don’t want to do any more of that than you have too.
Let the People Speak
Here’s what others had to say about why they think they eat more when they workout less.
Alexie Elizabeth Messer I think it is because when we are working out we realize the effort we have out in that day and don’t want to ruin/negate it by over eating. In short we are just more conscious of our bodies when working out.
Patti Ambrosia McLean We figure might as well… Sadly we want instant results. Not possible
Robert Phoenix At heart we are hunters, gatherers & scavengers. Its deeply routed in our genetics. This is at odds with modern day living. We are programmed to search & forage for food. When we exercise we burn fat & calories. If we dont exercise insulin levels rise in the body to convert the excess food we eat into fat & store it, we become “insulin tolerant” & used to the rising levels of insulin & the body desires more food to counterract the increased insulin levels. We are also more likely to desire unhealthy foods as the insulin tolerance increases. Also mentality plays a big part. By saying “no” to specific foods you want them more so this doesn’t work well. The word “Diet” is overused & has become an instrinsic part of our vocabulary which is detrimental because it suggests to the body that we are “depriving” ourselves of food which makes the hunter/gatherer/scavenger inside us become a defense mechanism & make us want more food. I could go on…
Tamara Grand For me, the two go together. I’m more mindful of my body and how it feels when I’m exercising daily and the link between food and fuel is stronger!
Alex Cartwright Pretty sure it’s chemical…we aren’t getting the endorphin rush we’d receive from a good workout so we try to get it from food.
Tommy Arenas i work hard labor” then feel 2 tired 2 wrkout” sumtimz i just eat & crash”
Laurie Duncan It’s a survival mechanism.
Charise Charly McOmber I’d love to know. There are times when I can be right on target, never a slip. But I’ve gone through a period of swearing I’m going to make it today eating clean and then break every rule. I don’t get it.
Chris Nicodemus I disagree sorry , the More I Train the More I Eat, Like a Furnace Fueling the Fire
Amanda Marciniak Mazey did that today, I could not stop eating and couldn’t be bothered with working out, now I feel sick and yet even tho I’m not hungry feel the urge to eat
So, if you’re like me, you’re ready to get the weight off from the holidays, or maybe you need to lose a few pounds you’ve collected over the years. Either way, you’ve probably set some goals and are ready to get started – at least your brain is.
My brain says, “I am sick of feeling fat. I’m tired of clothes not fitting like I want them to fit. I’m tired of feeling tired and crappy. I’m tired of looking bad and feeling bad. I really love feeling fit and looking my best” And, although all those thoughts fill my head, which SHOULD motivate me to make a change, my body says “I DON’T WANNA!“.
Didn’t my body get the memo? Why is my body not fired up to get this fitness party started?! Well, I dug deep to uncover some of the reasons why I think our body is so slow to join our brain and begin to tackle our goals.
1. FAT PROBLEM
When we’re heavy, we’re sluggish and sometime even depressed. Our body is slow to respond to our brain’s desire to be fit because our body isn’t convinced it has what it takes to do what’s required. We know it will take work, and our body isn’t thrilled about it. We don’t even like the way we look in our workout clothes, which is another downer. If we don’t like what we see in the mirror, our knee-jerk reaction is to pout and hide. The more we hide and pout, the more depressed we get because our brain knows what to do, but our body isn’t ready to do it. Then we have to deal with guilt on top of fat.
SOLUTION: Our first mistake is thinking working out is an option. We can’t wait to “feel” like working out. We just have to start doing it, whether we feel like it or not. As we get in a routine, our body will begin to change and pep up. Exercise naturally improves our thoughts and fights depression. After a few days of regular exercise, our body will begin to look and feel better. The more comfortable we get in our skin, the more confident and extroverted we become. Once we start getting these results, they will keep us going after that.
2. PRIDE PROBLEM:
When we’ve been in better shape before, it’s easy to think people will notice how much we’ve slipped, and that is embarrassing. We know when we grab a set of dumbbells that we’ll probably have to lift lighter and not be able to go as hard as we once did. That too gives our pride another big hit.
SOLUTION: I hate to break it to you, nobody cares. Seriously, no one cares how much we lift or how fast we run. Most people won’t even notice what we’re doing. We are the only one that’s let down, so we have to get over it. Our body bounces back fast. If we were once very fit, but now we aren’t, our body will respond quickly – as long as we just get our butt to the gym and stay consistent. But if we want to succeed, we need to leave our pride at home.
3. ENERGY PROBLEM:
When we eat poorly and gain weight, we get lazy. We lack the energy to “feel” like working out – and laziness breeds more laziness, so the more we give into those lazy feelings, the worse we get.
SOLUTION: The first step to breaking the lazy cycle is eating healthy, low-calorie small meals. Smaller meals take less energy to digest, so we will have more energy to do other things (like exercise). Healthy fuel (food) also gives improves our energy levels and will power us through our workouts. Eating often (every 3 hours) keeps our metabolism up so we are more energized throughout the day. Once we get our fuel down, we can have better workouts – and the combination of the two will provide a powerhouse of energy.
4. TIRED PROBLEM:
While energy often stems from poor food choices, being tired may not have less to do with food and more to do with activity. Many people struggle with being too tired to workout, especially after a long hard day at work. When we are tired, we tend to be less active. We eat more, and drink more. The more we eat and drink, the more tired and stressed we become. We gain weight, which wears our body out, and we become more stressed, which wears us out even more. The added stress causes us to lose sleep. When we lose sleep, our body gets run down and we get sick more.
SOLUTION: Workouts with intense bursts of intensity boost both our mood and energy. Consistent challenging exercise improves sleep so we are more rested and energized through out the day. Exercise also helps relieve stress and release pinned up anger and frustrations. As our energy increases, so does our productivity. We will perform better at work and we’ll discover that the discipline in the gym will overflow in other parts of our lives. All in all, the one hour in the gym will improve how we spend the other 23 hours a day and we’ll be able to handle work, stress, hard labor and many other obstacles with much more ease.
5. BUSY PROBLEM:
We’re all busy, so it’s super easy to come up with a long list of responsibilities that get in the way of our workout. But, we can busy ourself right into the grave if we’re not careful.
SOLUTION: If we have a busy problem, we likely have a priority problem. We are “letting” our current life get in the way of our future life. We know what we want, but we aren’t prioritizing our schedule so that we get there. If we get better with managing our time, we can be better at managing our weight and workouts. Time management is a requirement for anyone who wants to get fit. We can’t just expect to have time left at the end of the day. We have to limit time we waste on other stuff and make time to invest in our future. We just need to make every minute count.
No matter what your problem is, the solution is the same. Just Show Up Anyway.
My Mantra Pic for DAY 4 of 30 Days of Motivation:
We all experience stress from time to time. Although we may experience the same type of stress (financial stress, stressful relationship issues, work stress, etc) we all respond to stress very differently (see my facebook poll below).
While we can’t always control the actual stress itself, we sure as heck can control how we respond to it – and THAT can make ALL the difference in the world!!
What causes stress?
I found this description on NaturalNews.com: “Exercise essentially burns away the chemicals like cortisol and norepinephrine that cause stress. At the same time, vigorous exercise releases endorphins into the system. Endorphins are morphine-like hormones that are responsible for the feeling of elation, or well being that distance runners get from running. Other chemicals like dopamine and serotonin are also released in the brain during exercise. Together, these give a feeling of safety and security that contributes to off-setting some of the “internal” causes of stress, such as uncertainty, pessimism and negative self-talk.” This chemical reaction from exercise is often what people refer to as the Runner’s High.
To be honest, when I am stressed, the LAST thing I want to do is exercise. I want to go home and hide. I want to sit on the couch and entertain my brain with mindless TV. I want to eat and drink the night away until I’m so tired I crash in bed, hopefully forgetting (and ignoring) all of my problems. If I’m in a really pathetic mood, I will draw a bath and be sure to sulk for a long period of time. I won’t put on make-up or leave the house to do much of anything. BUT after that response, I will even feel WORSE! Yet, if I suck it up and exercise, the stressful circumstance may not change, but my view of that stress, and the way I handle it, completely changes. Here’s why.
10 Reasons Why Exercise is the Best Stress-Reliever
- Exercising regularly can reduce stress, and increase productivity. Since most of us have more stress when we are the busiest, with a demanding schedule, it actually is beneficial to exercise during our busiest time – which is often times when we skip our workouts the most.
- Exercise is prescribed to help relieve nervous tension. Studies showed people had a decrease in electrical activity of tensed muscles after exercise. This also helps relieve painful muscle spasms in common areas like our neck, back and shoulders.
- Exercise relaxes you. One exercise session generates 90 to 120 minutes of relaxation response. Since most of us struggle to relax when we are stressed, exercise is a good replacement for Valume and other medications commonly used to fight anxiety and nervous tension.
- Exercise improves self-esteem. When you exercise, you are more confident to handle stress. Small stresses won’t bother you as much, and bigger stresses will seem more manageable because you feel more confident to attack them. Other stresses related to your appearance or relationships may even completely go away when you take away your own insecurities.
- Intense exercise has a greater effect on reducing stress. A new study by researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia showed that a relatively high-intensity exercise is superior in reducing stress and anxiety, especially in women – and even more in older women. (no excuses my menopause ladies!)
- The rhythmic running, outside or on the treadmill, can clear the mind. (you gotta love hearing that runners!!) In a world that constantly keeps the mind occupied, this is super helpful for troubleshooting problems and exploring new ideas. The Mayo Clinic calls exercise “Meditation in Motion“.
- Exercise has been proven to lower symptoms of depression and anxiety. Study after study continues to prove exercise is one of the best anti-depressants available.
- Exercise improves sleep, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep, which is often disrupted when one is going through a lot of stress. If you sleep better at night, you are more able, and ready, to bring on what the day throws your way.
- Exercise (which stresses our muscles and cardiovascular system) helps the body a chance to practice dealing with stress. It forces the body’s physiological systems to communicate better. The more sedentary we are, the less efficient our body is when responding to stress.
- People who exercise eat better. Since many people actually have additional stress due to weight gain and self-esteem issues, exercise helps improve our eating patterns, as well as improve our quality of food which can help us feel better and have more energy.
The way we respond to stress is habit. We will automatically try to turn to what we have taught our body to do when we experience stress – drinking, sleeping, eating, etc. If you want to change your first response, you have to change your stress-response. At first, it will be purposeful. You will have to force yourself to go to the gym, or go for a run, every day – especially after a bad day at work or a stressful event. Eventually it will become second nature.
When I asked my facebook peeps what their response to stress was, here were some of their honest answers. Just think how awesome we’d all feel if we all started to turn to exercise!