We all have busy lives that require us to play many roles—from parent to spouse to business professional and more, our time is usually spread thin between all of life’s demands. On top of the daily hustle and bustle, life can even throw at you very stressful events such as moving or buying a house, taking on care for parents as they age, or life-changing illness, suffered by you or a loved one.
Why It's Important to Monitor Your Stress
Over time, chronic stress can take a toll on not only your body but also your mind.1 What’s more, it may be increasingly difficult to take care of your own health and reach your weight loss goals if you’re constantly feeling overwhelmed.2
Although it’s nearly impossible to control every stressor in your life, you can take steps to help monitor your response. Read on as we explain why it’s important to monitor your stress levels and provide healthy tips to help you unwind.
How Stress Affects Your Body
Your mind and body go hand-in-hand, and uncontrolled stress can wreak havoc on both.3 Stress can show up in a variety of ways, from physical symptoms to emotional and mental symptoms, and it’s not uncommon to experience a combination of all three.
Some of the most common physical effects of stress are fatigue, digestive problems, headaches, sleep problems, and muscle tension. Long-term, unmanaged stress may lead to diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity.3 Stress may also be responsible for anxiety, inability to focus, and restlessness.3
These physical and mental changes may impede your weight loss progress, especially because food can be used as an outlet to cope.
How to Monitor Stress Levels
You might feel overwhelmed by the idea of monitoring your stress levels, but know that you don’t have to solve all your stressors right now. That you are bringing awareness to the fact that you are stressed and that there are triggers for those stressors can help you get on the path for stress management. Think of it as taking a step back and evaluating your feelings and emotions, to help you become more in tune with your body.
Understanding Your Response to Stress
The first step in monitoring your stress levels is to understand your body’s response to it. When you encounter a stressful situation, your body’s fight-or-flight response is activated: your heart rate and blood pressure increase and several hormones enter your bloodstream, including adrenaline and cortisol.4 These hormones and bodily changes may boost our performance to a certain extent. However, our focus and memory can take a hit when our stress exceeds a certain level.5
Everyone’s reaction to high stress levels is different, and not all stress is bad. Someone may find a high-pressure situation to be invigorating, while someone else may find it taxing. How people exhibit symptoms of stress also varies.6
Part of monitoring your stress and acknowledging when it’s not serving you involves knowing how you respond to it. The following questions may help you in this process:
● Attention. Is it hard to maintain your focus?
● Mood. Do you feel overwhelmed and pessimistic?
● Stamina. Do you feel exhausted or like you’re running out of steam?
● Body. Do you have heartburn, a headache, a racing pulse or dizziness?
● Thoughts. Are you falling into negative thought patterns?
Once you understand how you react to stress, you can identify when your stress levels are heightened. When you feel feelings of anxiety creeping up, you can take steps to help control the stress before it becomes overwhelming.
If you’re in the middle of an intense activity, such as finalizing an important project for work, take a moment to step away from it. Taking a walk or the time to stand up and stretch may help reset your mind and body.
You can also take a few minutes to meditate. It doesn’t have to be time intensive or complicated. All you need is a relatively quiet place to focus on a repetitive activity, such as a breathing pattern or a word. When you recognize thoughts popping into your mind, calmly disregard them and go back to focusing on your breath.
Meditation may activate the relaxation response by breaking the train of everyday thought.7 It may also help lower your blood pressure and slow your heart rate and breathing.8
In addition to taking breaks or using meditation, you can also adopt lifestyle changes to help minimize stress. Some examples include getting at least seven hours of sleep each night9, engaging in at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week10 and eating a balanced diet.
Although it’s close to impossible to eliminate stress entirely, you can take steps to monitor it and help reduce its adverse effects. When you monitor your stress levels, you may feel more in control of your response to situations and know when it’s time to de-stress and take a break.
Did you know that at Jenny Craig, you get a personal consultant to help guide you on your path to better health and help you navigate any stressful situations that may impact your weight loss goals? Contact Jenny Craig for a free appointment to get started and being your journey today!
Elisa is a content marketing manager for Jenny Craig with over ten years of experience working in the health and fitness industry. She loves sharing her passion for living a balanced and healthy lifestyle. A San Diego native and an endurance sports enthusiast, you can usually find her swimming, biking along the coast highway or running by the beach in her free time. Elisa holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University Chico.
Favorite healthy snack: mozzarella string cheese with a Pink Lady apple.
This article is written by experienced health and lifestyle contributors and reviewed by certified professionals.
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