Whether you tend to eat more or less when stressed apparently all depends on how the brain perceives the stress you are dealing with. In general, when you are faced with an acute stress e.g. if you’re being chased by a dog the fight or flight response kicks in. It’s perceived you are in danger so your brain responds by releasing hormones that reduce appetite. However if the stress is more persistent the brain releases hormones that increase appetite and may lead to what is commonly referred to as comfort eating.
Regardless of what stress response kicks in, the key is to find ways to manage stress before it really impacts your health in a negative way. Now I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to switch my mind off when I’m trying to relax. I’ve tried so many relaxation techniques including meditation, deep breathing etc. and one technique that I’ve found works really well for me is Trauma Release Exercise. TRE is essentially exercise that helps the body release deep muscular stress tension and trauma. If you want to know more about it then I’d suggest taking a look at this website. http://treaustralia.com.au/ The beauty of it is that once you know what to do you can easily incorporate it into your daily life. Having said that, while I’m not great at meditation I am working on improving my skills as I think there are great benefits to be gained from regular practice. Some other very simple stress management techniques I use include deep breathing, listening to music and focussing in the moment when stressed on my senses .e.g. If I’m out walking, I might focus on how the air feels on my face or if I’m eating I might focus and the texture and taste of each bite. I guess when it comes down to it, it’s about finding what techniques and activities work best for you. Like most things when it comes to health it’s trial and error.
Ever wondered why you feel so tired and drowsy after a big meal? I know I have. There’s a number of theories out on this, but one of the popular ones is a sudden shift of blood flow from the brain and muscles to the digestive system. Now if the feeling that you need to take a nap during your day is getting in the way of your productivity then there’s a few simple tips to avoid it.
- Start by having smaller meals. This will help keep your blood sugar and ultimately energy levels more stable, provided of course you are making healthy choices.
- Try eating more meals with a higher water content such as salads and soups. Apparently these are digested higher in the stomach where there is less nerve supply. If there is less nerve supply then you are less likely to feel tired and drowsy. Unlike if you eat a burger that tends to be processed lower in the stomach where there is a larger nerve supply. interesting stuff!
Photo credit: Pixabay
3. Now here’s something I didn’t know! It’s in your best interest to eat lunch earlier rather than later. According to some research approximately 11.45am-12pm is an optimal time. The average person experiences a dip in energy levels around 1-1.30pm due to circadium rhythms otherwise known as your body clock. Now you’re less likely to notice this dip if you eat at the earlier time. Imagine that – eating at the same time your body may naturally take a bit of a dip….double whammy!!
4. This recommendation is one that many people would be familiar with as it’s been endorsed for quite some time. Eating slower releasing carbohydrates – such as many fruits instead of fast releasing carbohydrates such as white rice will help keep your blood sugar levels and therefore energy more stable. Keep in mind that when eating meals and snacks that combine carbohydrates with other foods the release rate of the carbohydrates will change. It’s more of an issue to be aware of when you are eating carbohydrates such as water melon in isolation. Keep in mind water melon, which tends to have a high GI (glycaemic index) is a very alkaline food, so if you combine it with some yoghurt which is a good source of protein ,then you have yourself a good snack that won’t give you a spike in blood sugar levels.
So if tiredness after meals is an issue, start by taking a look at what you eat, when you eat and the quantity.
Given that so many of us are so dependent on our technology these days I thought it might be interesting to look at how it may impact our exercise performance. A recent study of people using their mobile phones to talk or text during an exercise session showed some concerning results. The risk of injury increased significantly, due to a reduction in postural stability leading to balance issues and participants in the study were less likely to workout at an intensity that was conducive to gaining optimum results. It turns out that using a mobile phone for anything other than listening to music is a distraction which really should probably come as no surprise to anyone. However that puts to rest the idea that we can multitask effectively even when we exercise. So it looks like if we’re going to take our mobile phones with us on our workout we need to only use it for listening to music. Alternatively it can be used to track progress using a fitness App. This is something that can ideally be done post workout The idea is to avoid glancing down at the screen as this affects balance. So it looks like a pre programmed playlist of songs is the go. If the phone rings, it may be best to let it go to message bank to avoid having a session compromised unless of course it’s an emergency. Or else there’s always the option of leaving the mobile phone at home to enjoy some time out “unplugged” to give yourself the best chance of completing an effective workout.
One of the goals I have set myself this year is to rebuild lung function. At the moment my lung function sits on 43% and when you consider that 85+ percent would be considered normal for my age group you can see I have a bit of work to do. When I was first diagnosed with lung disease 7 years ago my lung function was 72%. Frequent infections have certainly taken their toll. I don’t know how much lung function it is possible for me to regain, but I have an open mind and have hope in possibilities. I won’t be setting an end goal or a set time frame but hope to document my progress intermittently over the coming year. I’ll be experimenting with exercise and some mind techniques to see what I can achieve. I’ll be recording my lung function every 3 weeks with a peak flow device, and then will include my lung function results from my clinic visits that I have done approximately every 4-6 weeks. I’ve decided to start with some mind techniques initially. I’m lucky enough to have a life coach who is teaching me various mind techniques. About a month ago we started with a session to help clear an issue that could be holding me back in terms of lung health and then I was required to come up with some affirmations to help me go forward. I was required to write out the affirmations and send them to her everyday for a month. I also had to write the affirmations out on a card and carry them around with me and read them intermittently through the day. I routinely did 15 minutes of meditation most days as well. I’m quite amazed at the progress I’ve made already. One of my first affirmations related to living and not just existing. You see for the past few months I was couch bound due to a heavy cold and I literally felt like my life had come to a stand still. I was existing rather than living. Now I’m pleased to report I feel I am living again. Woohoo! I am really enjoying the accountability of working with a life coach and she provides me with so much encouragement. I feel truly blessed to have this opportunity to learn from someone who has a true gift.
This month’s affirmation relates to having healthy lungs that function properly so it will be exciting to see how it goes. This will inevitably continue to be a part of my affirmations going forward. As I mentioned I’m going into this with an open mind and a belief that I will get results because I believe in the process. Here is a couple of the affirmations I have included for this month.
My peak flow measurement which is the amount of air I can force out of my lungs in one all out effort is 310 litres/min. I will be recording the best of 3 test measurements each time I record my peak flow The normal range for someone of my age and height is about 440 litres/min. My lung function was 43% when last measured in December 2016. I will be recording my FEV1% score which is a measure of how much air I can forcefully exhale in the first second of a breath. I will be exercising throughout the entire process, but at this stage won’t be making any changes to my current program that consists of 20 minutes of continuous cardiovascular exercise. e.g. walking
I don’t know about you but I have neither a love or hate relationship with exercise. I’m somewhere in between. All I know is I usually feel better for doing it. I didn’t always feel this way. I once lived and breathed exercise. It was my career. I was an exercise scientist, spruiking the benefits of exercise to all my clients. I loved it and practised what I preached. I felt like it was my calling. Then seven years ago it all changed. I got diagnosed with a lung disease and exercise suddenly became a chore. The shoe was on the other foot. I began to understand some of the obstacles my clients used to talk about in regard to exercise because I was facing some of those same challenges myself. Exercise became a real effort, but I knew it was something I had to continue with because my health depended on it. I learnt how hard it can be to get back the exercise habit when you’ve had a break from it for a while. Dealing with regular chest infections meant I was often falling off the exercise wagon and having to find my way back step by step. You know what they say though, “through adversity comes some of the greatest lessons”. I totally agree with that. If I were to pick out one thing that has helped me the most it’s the realisation that I had to make exercise a “non negotiable” Much like brushing my hair or doing my teeth I treat exercise as something that I automatically do as part of my day. I remember shortly after I was diagnosed rebelling against doing what I should be doing. I went a day without exercise and it was an awful day. My energy levels were terrible and my lungs were so congested I coughed so much more than usual. From this moment onwards exercise was a no brainer.
Exercise is a part of my life. Don’t get me wrong I wake up most mornings and momentarily think I don’t feel like doing it, but I just get on with it. I can’t rely on motivation to get me through because that seems to fluctuate from day to day. So I find having a routine time of the day to exercise helpful. If I can’t exercise at my usual time due to some other commitment then I build it into another part of the day. Today for instance I was all out of whack. I couldn’t exercise at my usual time of 9am so I decided to break my exercise routine into two blocks of 15 minutes instead of one block of 30. There is plenty of evidence to support smaller blocks of exercise anyway. In fact I saw an interesting study done on the benefits of 6 minutes per week. Here’s the link. http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/4319131.htm It’s worth a look as it is considered quite a reputable study. However I will say I don’t believe there is one exercise plan to fit all. It’s about what works for you. I do however believe there are a number of key components that make up an ideal exercise program. These include flexibility, strength, and cardiovascular endurance. My plan consists of a combination of walking or an indoor circuit, weights and stretching. If I have a break from exercise, usually caused by a flare up with my health I start small when I resume my plan. I may start with blocks of 5 minutes of exercise and build up from there, until I’m doing 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. I intermittently review what I’m doing so I don’t get bored and I don’t get stuck in an exercise plateau. Sometimes it’s about making one small change that can make all the difference. I’m a bit of a fan of interval training to build fitness. I still do some steady state training which is continuous e.g. walking for 20 minutes at a set pace but on some days I mix it up with some short bursts of high intensity exercise e.g. 1 minute and then recover for a minute before starting another interval. I find it rebuilds my fitness quicker than the continuous steady state training.
Finally, having some kind of accountability is a huge asset. I have a team of allied health professionals that I’m accountable to at least each month and let’s just say they leave no stone unturned when it comes to my health. Having someone to report into helps keep me on track.
So if you’re starting out with exercise or finding it hard to regain the exercise habit I’d say the following.
- Set up a plan that is realistic and adaptable
- Try making exercise a non-negotiable
- Set up some kind of accountability
- Enjoyment is a bonus – as long as it’s sustainable you should be right!
Best wishes with maintaining the exercise habit. Just remember you are not alone. Everyone on the planet has to find some way to exercise.