Sometimes we get so caught up in our day to day life that we don’t even realize the amount of stress we’re under. We increase our responsibilities, decrease our sleep, and expect our stress levels to remain the same. We tell ourselves “I can do it all” and, when we can’t, we blame ourselves for it. This is where the voice in our head starts to speak up and beat us down. “I could have gone to the gym if I didn’t have so much to do.” “I should have stayed late at work to catch up.” “I would have gone to the party if I weren’t so tired.” We have to stop letting the shoulda, woulda, coulda get the best of us. Let’s take a step back, cut ourselves some slack and figure out a plan that works. We already know that stress is the problem. It just takes a little organizing and planning to find the solution. I’ve gone through some major stressors that most of us can relate to and reviewed the effects they are having on our lives as well as solutions to help manage them.
We all (or at least most of us) have to work in order to survive. The days of the one income household are long gone. For many women, finding a work-life balance can be challenging. Unfortunately, many of us end up letting it affect our health. Work stress can affect you mentally because your mind is cluttered with tasks, responsibilities, and duties. Work can also affect you physically whether you have a sedentary or an active job. Sedentary jobs can lead to physical stress on your lower back and hips from sitting at a desk too long. Sitting for the majority of the day can also cause your total energy expenditure to drop, which can lead to weight gain. The solution is as simple as getting up and moving. During the day you can walk and talk, stand at your desk, or even sit on an exercise ball to keep yourself more active. Going to the gym either before or after work will help counteract the effects of your job on your health. A morning workout will help you mentally prepare for the day ahead and get your mind right. An evening workout can help you unwind and reflect on the stressors that occurred throughout the day before going home. Consider these two options, and your personal schedule to determine when the best time for you to exercise is. Remember, you want to remove stress from your life, not add to it. If waking up at 5:00 in the morning stresses you out, then go for an evening workout. If your schedule is too cramped after work, then make sure to get your exercise in early before your day takes off.
Money is the main source of stress for most people and the second most common excuse people use to avoid a healthy lifestyle. Stress in general can lead to poor digestion, migraines, loss of sleep, depression, and so much more. So let’s explore how you can stress less about money while on your fitness journey. Go back to the basics for a moment. Is healthy food more expensive? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Do gym memberships cost money? You bet. There are ways to make a healthy lifestyle work for every budget, you just have to be smart about it. Let me explain my personal experience. When I first started working out I didn’t have a lot of money (I still don’t haha) so I would find the cheapest healthiest options at the grocery store. Canned tuna, black beans, apples, potatoes, oats, etc. I found the cheapest gym in town and paid $10.00 a month. All my workout gear came from Wal-Mart: tops, shorts, shoes, everything. I didn’t have a smart phone so I used my old school iPod and Dollar Tree headphones during every workout. I didn’t have a lot of money but I made it work! My point here is, the health and fitness industry sells you fancy, sexy, expensive, cutting edge products to convince you that you must have them in order to achieve success. But guess what? People have been getting in shape for years without using a FitBit!
The gym is a rather interesting place if you really think about it. It brings people from all walks of life. Young, old, rich, poor, friendly, and… jerks. Ah yes, there lies the culprit. If you ask any gym goer if they’ve experienced gym jerks they will most likely say yes. You can’t escape the social situations that bring about insecurities and anxieties in the gym, but you can manage your response to them. Often times people feel like everyone in the gym is looking at them, and they are partially correct. Gym goers are typically concerned with themselves, and if they’re looking at you, they are probably making some physical comparisons. You’d be surprised to find out how many people at the gym deal with physique anxiety. Ignore the external cues, focus on what you came to do, and recognize that insecurities scream the loudest. So the muscle man walking around with his chest puffed out might feel like he’s not big enough. And the girl who flirts it up on the elliptical might feel like she’s not perfect enough. I say if you’re in there, you’re enough!
Injuries can have major effects on your health, not only physically, but mentally as well. Physically, an injury might keep you out of the gym for weeks, put limitations on your workout, and hinder your progress. As a result, your mentality can suffer. Your inner voice might start to convince you that you’re not good enough, and that you should just give up. Instead, try to train smarter. If you’ve suffered an injury in the past, heavy lifting might not be the best option so try body weight exercises instead. If your joints hurt every time you lift, consider using braces, guards, or belts for extra support. You might feel awkward at first, but these things will offer you extra support and ensure a safe workout. If an exercise hurts, try another variation. There are many progressions and regressions for every type of exercise. Be smart about your routine and find what works for you!
We already talked about nutrition stress and how it pertains to money stress. Now we are going to focus more on how food choice/availability can cause stress while trying to achieve your fitness goals. First of all, the world is not revolving around your goals. The world does not care if you’re trying to lose weight or build muscle. Once you recognize this, you’ll stop being stressed about the healthy options at the bbq, the calories in the restaurant meal, or if you’ll have time to grab a protein shake. Of course I could go on and on about the dangerous health effects of drinking soda, consuming too many calories, or eating too much fat, but you already know all of that. You can have a cheeseburger at a bbq or a glass of wine with your friends and still see results. My solution for nutritional stressors is just to think logically about your food choices. Opt for high protein foods, drink plenty of water, watch your portion sizes, and allow yourself to enjoy a treat or two. You’re not going to reach your goal by eating ONE salad, just like you’re not going to sabotage your goal by eating ONE cookie.
Friends and family bring us a lot of happiness, but unfortunately they can bring us a lot of stress as well. Especially while you’re seeking health and fitness goals. There’s a few reasons why your friends and family make it difficult to reach your goals. They might fear change. They might think that you’re being selfish and leaving them behind. They might even think your goals are weird. Be prepared for them to say things like “Have dessert, it’s not going to kill you!” or “Just skip the gym today and come to happy hour!” If you’re making a big lifestyle change then you’re going to feel some resistance from everyone else who’s not on the bandwagon with you. Instead of viewing friends and family as the problem, view them as part of the solution. Share your desires with them and let them know that it’s important to you. Chances are, if it’s important to you it’ll be important to them. Think of fun ways to get them involved with your new journey. Instead of going out for dinner, offer to make healthy meals at home together. Instead of missing out on quality time, adjust your workout schedule so that you don’t have to miss anything. You’re friends and family should be there to support you, not to discourage you, so build a team right from the beginning.
How often have you seen people get into relationships, get comfortable, and “let themselves go?” It happens a lot! More time snuggled up together, dinner dates, and less motivation to attract another partner. This can be a slippery slope for couples, especially while trying to reach your health and fitness goals. Whether you’re in an existing relationship, new relationship, or looking for a partner, seek someone whose goals align to yours. Just like you would with friends and family, find quality time activities to do with your partner. Go to the gym together, get outdoors and walk your dogs or go on bike rides, prepare healthy meals together. Your partner should be your biggest ally. Motivate each other to reach your goals together! You’ll feel a stronger sense of unity and accomplishment if you work together as a team.
There are so many stressors in our daily life that can become roadblocks to success. Instead of letting them get in the way and cause you stress, use them to your advantage. Make your problem your solution and turn your troubles into triumphs!