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How to Reduce Stress using Exercise, Diet and Sleep

Q.

"Hello!

I have a very busy schedule with work and it is extremely stressful. It isn't really a lot of hours, but its the stress and I am not sleeping properly either. I want to exercise more, and I do have time on the weekends, but I don't feel motivated because I am so exhausted and stressed out from work. HELP!

Seriously, any advice would be extremely helpful.

- Jonathan R."

Stop stressing out!
A.

Hey Jonathan!

I am sorry to hear work has got you down so much. But let me try to help you with some very sound advice (which I have separated into three sections below).

SECTION #1. DIET

I noticed you didn't mention your diet at all. What you are eating is often largely responsible for how you are feeling. From a nutritionist perspective diet plays a huge a role (about 80%) in everything we do. Sleep and exercise also plays a role, but the percentage of each is small in contrast.

When people are stressed out they tend to crave comfort food. Foods that are high in carbs, sugar, etc. Breads, pasta, ice cream, chocolate, and also salty junk food. The reason is because these foods cause a temporary boost in endorphin levels. They're like a drug and they are addictive. The extra carbs later makes you feel worse, bloated and depressed, so you go back for more just so you can get that temporary boost in endorphins. Its a horrible cycle and its only made worse if you are under a lot of stress.

So how do you fix this?

STEP ONE - Don't go grocery shopping when depressed. Go when you are in a positive mood and only buy things that are good for you. Whole wheat breads/pastas, get yogurt instead of ice cream, buy lots of veggies and fruits (LOTS!), skim milk instead of 2%.

STEP TWO - When hungry, snack on healthy things. Don't starve yourself until later. Eat now and eat healthy. Starving yourself is both unhealthy and adds more to your stress levels.

STEP THREE - Plan your meals ahead of time to make healthier meals. Doing so will help regulate your stress levels.

STEP FOUR - Don't get rid of carbs completely. You still need them. That is why whole wheat bread/pasta is good for you.

STEP FIVE - Avoid junk food, but don't be afraid to indulge during parties and special events. You are there to have fun and relax. Enjoy! Don't punish yourself either.


SECTION #2. EXERCISE

Many people who come home from work and are exhausted just want to chill in front of a TV and not doing anything active all evening. However exercising for 30 minutes to 60 minutes between 6 PM and 8 PM will also help you get a better night's sleep and will reduce your stress levels dramatically. I don't recommend exercising after 9 PM because then you can get insomnia from getting "too pumped up". Basically if the sun is still up, its a good time to exercise. Once the sun sets, its time to relax and get ready for bed.

Plus some exercises are really good at lowering stress levels. But what exercises can you do at home that help lower stress?

OPTION ONE - Boxing. I love boxing myself. It is very good for cardio. Just doing shadow boxing by yourself for 30 minutes every night will both provide exercise and reduce stress. Other forms of martial arts are also handy, but more difficult for beginners to learn and do at home.

OPTION TWO - Yoga. Yoga is great for developing your core muscles and also reducing stress.

OPTION THREE - Weightlifting. Try getting some dumbbells to start off and lifting weights while watching your favourite TV shows. During commercial breaks do jumping jacks and then go back to the dumbbells. If you progress further with this get a barbell and do deadlifts during the commercial breaks, but be sure to learn how to do a proper Olympic style deadlift so your form is correct and you don't hurt yourself. Start off with weights that are just heavy enough that doing 10 reps is a challenge. If you can only do 5 they are too heavy. If you can do 30 without feeling a challenge, they are too light.

OPTION FOUR - For the weekends look for exercises you can do that get you outside and are either "low stress exercises" like going for nature walks and similar "low cardio exercises", or alternatively try "stress release exercises" like archery, boxing, martial arts. Look for fun exercises that you can enjoy again and again every weekend.

You may be exhausted after work and on the weekends. But if you make a plan to do these things you will find the motivation because you've made it part of a schedule.


SECTION #3. SLEEP

Having a balanced diet and regular exercise will help you sleep better, but there are also other ways to improve your sleep patterns.

#1. Close the drapes / get thicker/blacker drapes so you can block out the light. This way you don't have the light bothering you while you are trying to sleep.

#2. Get more comfortable pillows.

#3. Clean your bedsheets and make your bed regularly. A smooth and comfortable (and clean) bed will help you sleep better because it will be more comfortable.

#4. Some people prefer to fall asleep to music. Get a stereo or program on your computer (or app on your smartphone) with a timer which will play music and then shut off automatically after 45 minutes or so.

#5. Seek psychiatric help. Some people have problems sleeping at night because of old guilt / unresolved feelings. Might even be giving them nightmares. Facing your demons, apologizing to past enemies, visiting the gravestones of your loved ones, etc can also help you to sleep better at night once you've figured out what is stressing you out.

#6. Sex. Ahem. Yes, that could certainly help you sleep too. Great for reducing stress too! And its exercise!


If it is really purely work that is stressing you out and you can afford to make a career change, you might also consider that as a possibility. It really depends on how much you love your job or whether you only do it because you are chasing the almighty dollar. That is for you to determine, not me. I will say however that money is not everything and learning to let go of our stress over money can also lead to a happier and healthier life.

A career change, taking a year off to travel and relax, taking a sabbatical - they are all options if you have the resources and/or will.


1 comment:

  1. Exercise is really a great way to reduce stress and as a health conscious person I know the vitality of exercise to reduce stress and hopefully your article also helps me to learn the issue very perfectly. Thanks

    ReplyDelete

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