For a while now we have known that there is a link between stress and weight gain. However, it was always thought that the reason why people gained weight when stressed was simply because they tend to eat more for comfort.
Recent research published in the American Journal Of Epidemiology has now explained exactly what happens when we become stressed.
When we become stressed our bodies respond by going into a survival mode and prepare for the possibility of a long period without food. Metabolism slows down, more of the food we consume is stored as fat and stress hormones flood the stomach area which also cause further weight gain, and specifically accumulation of stomach fat.
The research also revealed that women suffer more in terms of weight gain than men. There are various different types of stress and women seem to suffer more. Most common problems are money and job problems. Women also suffer more from relationship problems, low self esteem and feelings of inertia in their lives.
What are the Warning Signs of Stress?
Stress leads to a craving of sugar rich foods such as pasta, crisps, chocolate and beer. These food types, high in carbs, increase levels of serotonin in the brain which has a natural calming effect. Comfort eating really does work to help us cope with stress, it is just unfortunate that the outcome is unwanted fat gain.
How to Manage Your Stress
There are many ways. Although stress management techniques such as meditation and breathing exercises can help, sometimes it is more effective to do some intensive exercise, weight training, martial arts or running. These exercises help to quickly release the stress hormones, making you feel better and also less likely to pile on the pounds.
So, if you are stressed, get active.
Workplace Health – Nasty Boss Can Kill You
The office environment is a relatively safe environment in which to work. There are not many of the dangers associated with manual labour, agriculture, manufacturing or mining. However, working in an office is not necessarily good for the heart. Working in a stressful office, under incompetent management, can actually increase your risk of heart disease and heart attack.
Research carried out by the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden has shown that people that worked in companies where bosses made them feel undervalued and unsupported were more likely to develop fatal heart conditions. Furthermore, the problem is accumulative over time – the longer you work for a tyrant, the greater the risks of developing heart disease.
The main reason for this is that poor management increases an employees stress levels and heart pressure, which in turn increases risk of heart disease. Short periods of high blood pressure are normal, however prolonged high blood pressure starts to have ill effects on the body.
The recent research was carried out by Stockholm University, and studied men of working age (17 to 70) in the Stockholm area, over a period of approximately 10 years. Employee heart health was monitored at the end of the study period, and each employee was questioned about their working conditions. There was a direct correlation between stressful conditions brought on by poor management with increase in heart disease.
The employees who rated senior managers to be the most incompetent had a 25% higher risk of a serious heart problem. Furthermore, other factors did not affect this trend – differing educational attainment, social class, income, workload, lifestyle factors (smoking and exercise), and other risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, were not as important as an incompetent boss.
“This limited, male-only study suggests that a good, clear working relationship with your manager may help to protect against heart disease. Feeling undervalued and unsupported can cause stress, which often leads to unhealthy behaviours such as smoking, eating a poor diet, drinking too much alcohol and not getting enough exercise – adding to your risk of developing heart problems. Being fit and active can give you the double benefit of busting work stress and boosting your heart health at the same time.” Cathy Ross, British Heart Foundation.
However, the unfortunate truth is that there is often little that a person can do about the way that their boss behaves. Many managers would consider their approach to be essential to “get the best out of staff” and to “keep order in the work place”. But at what cost, the health of the innocent, hard workign employes.
If you work in a stressful environment, it is essential to learn to releive that stress through hobbies and activities. Martial arts clubs are possibly one of the best ways to reduce stress after work.
Coping With Workplace Stress
Stress is a serious health problem today, and it can affect people from all walks of life. Stress can be caused by various factors, and can lead to many different conditions, such as mood swings which can make people more aggressive or more easily upset, anxiety, skin problems such as eczema, changes in sleep patterns and insomnia leading to tiredness and irritability, muscle tension, poor concentration, changes in eating patterns causing rapid weight loss or gain, low self esteem and confidence, memory loss and relationship problems.
There are two things to consider if you are suffering from stress, firstly what is causing you to become stressed, and secondly, what can you do to lessen the effects of being stressed. It is all to easy to get into the vicious cycle when stressed of attempted to ignore the situation by turning to alcohol, prescription drugs, nicotine or comfort eating, all of which could cause the symptoms to worsen while not tackling to problem at all.
When embarking on a self-help program to tackle stress, the first thing to do is take control. You may not be able to improve your working conditions straight away, for example, but you can change your habits. Once you have taken control of your physical self, by exercising and eating healthily, giving more time to yourself, and stopping any binge drinking, eating and smoking, then you will be in a position to take a more positive look at the conditions which have lead you to becoming stressed.
You may not be able to change your boss, or your job, but you can change your approach to the way you chose to react under stressful conditions. In a nutshell, this common phrase sums it up rather well – “work to live, don’t live to work“. I find that when work becomes stressful, when managers are piling on the work, demanding tighter deadlines, expecting me to complete new tasks in shorter time frames, then I remember one thing: I am paid to fulfil my contract of 35 hours per week, and to do my job as best as I can with the resources I have at my disposal. If a deadline is not met, then no matter how much this may upset the management, remember that essentially it is their problem, and not yours.
Management often like to encourage you to take responsibility, but this is just their way of offloading some of their own work to try to reduce the stress they are under. So long as you do a good job, you cannot be penalised. So if you are bending over backwards to meet tighter deadlines and complete more work, then remember, deadlines can be broken, time frames do not have to be met, and most importantly, your health is far more important than anything else.
This may seem a bit of a cavalier approach to working, but this attitude could help you take control of yourself at work. Stress causes more hours to be lost each year from our industry than are gained through over time, so it really does make sense. One thing a lot of people fail to do these days is take a proper lunch break. Seven or eight hours spent at the same desk can lead to a very stressful environment.
One simple method to reduce stress is to ensure that most days you take one hour out of the office for lunch, either sitting in a coffee shop, or walking and browsing in shops, or going to a library. When escaping from the office for an hour you give your mind a chance to relax. Some people find it useful to go to the gym in their lunch hour, some people prefer to read for an hour. Either way, both are very good ways of getting away from your work environment.
If you chose the gym option, or just a walk, ensure that you do not dwell on work issues while you are out. Remember that your lunchtime is your time, not your company’s time. And try to avoid taking work home with you too, time at home should be your time to unwind, relax, exercise, pursue hobbies etc. not to finish off work to meet deadlines.
Stress Research and Advice
- The consequences of too much stress– BBC Health
- Coping with stress: information for young people – Royal College of Psychiatrists
- Stress and mental health in the workplace – MIND
- “Mental distress, obesity and body fat distribution in middle-aged men.” by Rosmond R, Lapidus L, Mårin P, Björntorp P. Department of Heart and Lung Diseases, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Göteborg, Sweden.
- Stress: Constant stress puts your health at risk – Mayo Clinic
- How to Fight Stress and Ward Off Illness – What you Can Do to Protect Yourself By Celia Vimont. Winter 2008 Issue: Volume 3 Number 1 Pages 5 – 6