Updated: Apr 1
Do you know if you came to see me as a coaching client, complaining about weight gain around your belly, I would immediately ask you a question that you probably wouldn’t be expecting? I wouldn't ask you about how much you exercise. I wouldn't ask you about how many glasses of wine you drink a week. I wouldn't even ask you about your diet and what you eat. No, the first thing I would ask you about are your stress levels!
Stress is commonly associated with weight gain. During stressful times, our adrenal glands release large amounts of adrenaline and cortisol into our body and it is these hormones that contributes to weight gain, particularly around the mid-section, where women have a large number of receptors. I like to think of these receptors as little aliens, lying in wait with their arms outstretched, desperately looking for these stress hormones so they can grab hold of them and store them as fat.
Stress is the result of YOUR body’s reaction to a specific situation. Two people can go through the exact same experience – one might find the position stressful and the other might find it perfectly reasonable and comfortable. Stress can affect the way you act and think. It can also lead to sleep problems, headaches, struggles with concentration or difficulty acting rationally.
We all have stress to deal with. Common stressors include the morning commute, housework, children, work, finances, caring for elderly parents and currently a global pandemic! This means that lots of women arrive at midlife already feeling like they are running on empty.
We are not going to be able to eradicate stress from our lives completely, that would be unrealistic, but it is so important that you learn how to build a resilience to it in order to protect yourselves and your bodies.
For some women, de-stressing may be as easy as losing themselves in a book or magazine but others need some extra help and ideas. So how can you reduce the stress and anxiety in your life and start to live well?
HERE ARE MY TOP 5 TIPS:
1. MEET UP Seeing friends or family is obviously difficult in the current world climate and sometimes reaching out may be the last thing you feel like doing on some days, but moments of social connections are really important for your mental health and overall wellbeing. Bonding with other people actually helps you release more mood-boosting hormones. These are the perfect antidote to stress and help to reduce feelings of pain. I recommend making a date to see a friend or family member for a walk or arrange a call to chat a few times a week. There are now also a number of online support groups for women struggling with menopause symptoms which can reduce feelings of isolation.
2. START WHERE YOU ARE Rather than getting upset about the problems you are encountering in your life and thinking that it will be too difficult to overhaul everything, just step back and start exactly where you are. There are some things that are beyond our control but there are many things that we can control such as working on better sleep, not worrying about diets but starting to eat the things that make our bodies and minds feel better, finding something we enjoy doing that involves movement and managing our stress by finding more balance in our lives.
3. YOGA Women predominantly make up yoga classes, particularly women in their 30s, 40s and 50s, but if you haven’t tried it yet then now is the time. Studies have shown there are some rather lovely side effects for women suffering from menopause symptoms who take up yoga, particularly restorative yoga like Yin yoga, including better sleep, less depression, fewer hot flushes and better cognitive function.
4. ALTERNATE NOSTRIL BREATHING This is a breathing technique that you may have seen at the beginning or end of a yoga class and is an extremely helpful exercise to bring the heart rate back down and help you to relax. I often recommend people try it before going to bed:
· Take a few deep breaths breathing in and out through your nostrils
· Bring your right hand up towards your face
· Exhale completely and use your right thumb to gently close your right nostril
· Inhale through your left nostril then use your right ring finger to close your left nostril
· Open your right nostril and exhale
· Inhale through your right nostril then close the nostril again
· Open your left nostril and exhale
· Repeat for a few minutes
5. FOREST BATHING Yes, that is really a thing! This Japanese practice is a process of relaxation. The simple method of being calm and quiet amongst the trees, observing nature around you whilst breathing deeply can help both adults and children de-stress and boost health and wellbeing in a natural way. If you don’t have a forest near you, just get out in some nature nearby!