Are you stressed?
Getting poor sleeping?
Feeling anxious or moody?
You’re definitely not alone.
In this post you will learn how to relieve stress and anxiety and take back control.
Stress is part of life but high stress levels can build up to the point where it has negative impacts on our lives and puts our health at risk.
Common health issues arising from stress include insomnia and weigh gain.
We all experience stress in day-to-day life but the dose is the concern. The stress we encounter will depend on your environment and how you deal with it.
So whats stressing us out?
Finances, family, work and other bereavements or even a breakup.
Unfortunately, we will all experience some degree of stress and/or anxiety. It can wreck havoc on our emotions and make our behaviours unpredictable. Emotionally it can build tension and anger towards family and friends. It can also be a trigger to mental illness’s such as anxiety and depression.
Insomnia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, weight fluctuations, drinking and smoking.
When your body is stressed it enters a heightened state of alertness.
Thats fine occasionally.
But the problem occurs when it’s in this state for a long period of time.
This stress can cause many health issues, most notably a reduced immune system.
Our immune system is our front line defence against illness and disease and a weakened one makes us more susceptible to common illnesses.
Lets be real – stress will always be a part of our lives.
Unfortunately its unavoidable most of the time.
But we can learn to manage stress so you dont have to suffer the negative health effects of high stress levels.
Thats what this post is all about; learning to manage the stress effectively and avoiding too much of it wherever possible.
Step 1: Lift Weights to Reduce Belly Fat and Sugar Cravings
Training is the most underutilised anti-anxiety drug in the world.
People who train regularly have been shown to experience less anxiety than those that don’t. (1)
Exercising for as little as 10 minutes a day can reduce stress levels. If you’re stressed, get moving and find something active you enjoy doing whether it’s walking, yoga, or strength training.
Stress Hormones and Belly Fat
High levels of your bodies stress hormone, cortisol can have a negative impact on your health and fat loss. High cortisol levels have been shown to increase belly fat storage, particularly in women (2).
Training regularly (3-4 times a week) can lower your cortisol levels and also releases endorphines; your bodies feel good hormone, which also acts as a numbing pain killer.
Poor Sleep and Sugar Cravings
Have you ever had a crap sleep and wanted to eat nothing but sugar, carbs and junk the next day?
Maybe you work shifts and experience this regularly?
With less than 7 hours of good and restful sleep, you’re much more likely to reach for the sweets, takeaways and scones the next day (3).
You’ll also have elevated cortisol levels, which as we know has strong links to belly fat storage.
Sleep is such a huge issue for so many so I recorded the video below with includes 7 steps to falling asleep faster and improving your sleep.
Step 2: Eat More Good and Less Bad
Changing your diet will go a long way to relieving stress levels.
Eat More Of:
A healthy, nutritious diet full of single ingredient foods with lots of protein, vitamins and minerals.
Basically anything you can find in a butcher or fruit and vegetable shop.
Omega 3 fatty acids and Vitamin B are your friends. They can be found in fish, nuts and seeds.
Vitamin B is found in meat, eggs, seafood, and green leafy vegetables.
Eat Less Of:
Try to steer clear of stimulants, alcohol and excessive sugars or at least reduce them.
You will find that easier when you start training and work to improve your sleep first.
You will need a lot more motivation to overhaul your diet without training and improved sleep.
This isnt a nutrition post so i wont go into more detail but if you want some detailed help changing your diet, then checkout my video, The Ultimate Guide to Fat Loss Nutrition. Im talking quite slowly in it so turn the speed up to 1.25 and you’ll get through it faster. You’re the first to watch that video, so let me know what you think in the comments below.
Caffeine and Stimulants
Caffeine (Coffee, Energy drinks etc) can create unstable moods, increase anxiety and sleep deprivation.
Caffeine will stay in your system for up to 5 hours and being a stimulant, it will have a negative impact on your sleep and in turn food choices the next day.
As a general rule, eliminate caffeine or other stimulants just after lunch time. If you really need them after that, its probably because you’re sleep is off so make that a priority by watching the video above.
Alcohol is a depressant and it can increase stress and anxiety. (4)
I know you may use alcohol as a way to unwind and reduce stress but try to introduce other, more effective ways like training and improving your sleep.
You can still drink but try reduce it over time, while introducing training and better sleep.
Step 3: Meditate
When our bodies experience stress we go into a ‘flight or fight’ mode, and it can hard to get back to normal.
Fight or flight is fine for a small amount of time but being there for longer periods prevents us from relaxing.
Meditation can help you switch off and relax.
You will learn to reset your mood, lower your blood pressure, reduce stress and the effects of stress.
Studies show meditating for even 10 minutes a day can drastically reduce stress.
I meditate daily but not in a way you might think. I talk more about it in the rain step below.
If you’re new to meditation and need guidance, download the app Buddhify.
You can tell it whether you’re out walking, commuting or at home, so its easy to fit 10 mins of meditation into your day anywhere.
When you first start meditating it’s important to choose a quiet, dark space with no distractions (so the dart home may not be the best place to start).
As you meditate more, you’ll be able to shut off the outside world, so you can start to introduce it almost anywhere (just be careful you don’t miss your stop).
If stress is causing you trouble sleeping, meditate right before bed.
This will help you relax and rest the mind, and sooth you off to sleep.
Stress is an unfortunate reality and will always be part of our lives, it’s down to you and your ability to manage it that will reduce the effects.
Step 4: Take 20 Minutes
This last step is huge and involves assigning 20-30 minutes to yourself to focus on relaxation.
Evenings are ideal but if thats not a runner then assign the time at whatever time of day suits you.
Theres a few steps you can start to help you relax in the evenings, but they all involve assigning about 20 minutes.
Start whatever steps make most sense to you and what you think you’ll enjoy the most.
I also talk about taking 20 minutes as part of your “Pre-Bed Routine” in my How to Fall Asleep Fast video (step 5), so if you’re also interested in improving your sleep and having more energy during the day then make the points below a priority.
Step 5: Light Candles
Scented candles and essential oils are a great tool to help you relax.
Myself and Loren live in an apartment and after making dinner and prepping food for the next day in the evenings, we only have about an hour to ourselves before we go to bed at 10.30pm.
Dimming the lights, putting our phones away and lighting candles completely change the atmosphere and we focus on the time we have together.
Its a totally relaxing environment and so different to the one we used to have where we would sit in a bright room, flicking through our phones and barely speaking to each other.
We go to bed relaxed and ready to sleep, so we fall asleep instantly most nights (unless i snore lol).
Step 6: Avoid Procrastination
Easier said than done right?
But we all put things off that we don’t want to deal with.
Appointments, bills, emails, deadlines, whatever.
They they stack up and create high stress levels and we struggle to catch up.
If you could avoid procrastinating these tasks, you would immediately wipe out a lot of unnecessary stress from your life.
Start making a to-do list and assign realistic deadlines to each task.
Assign time to complete the tasks and work you way down through the list.
You will feel so much more in control of your life and avoid being caught on the back foot by forgotten and overdue tasks.
If you find yourself lying in bed thinking about what you have to do the next day and its stopping you falling asleep then make your list in the evenings before you go to bed.
Write down everything you need to do the next day and the time you have assigned to complete the task.
Making a list before bed acts like a brain dump; its sets your mind at ease heading to bed so you can fall asleep because you know you have things written down and you’re on top of them.
Step 7: Listen to Rain
I’ve recently created a new morning ritual thats been an absolute game changer for me.
I always train between 6-7am and start work shortly afterwards.
Writing a weekly blog post has always been something i wanted to start so i could help more people like you with topics like this post.
The problem was i was never prioritising the time to get it done.
Whenever i eventually got around to it, it was too late in the day and i was usually in a fairly stressed and reactive state, so the words just never flowed and it was a massive effort.
What i do now is write these posts in the morning from about 8am and work on them throughout the week until theyre ready to publish on Friday.
I do this in Starbucks, away from the distractions and noise of the gym.
Starbucks is quite noisy but i dont listen to music, i actually listen to the sound of rain, which blocks out all surrounding noise and is incredibly relaxing.
We recommend this to clients who have a hard time relaxing in bed too and it really works quite well.
Step 8: Get a Dog
I love dogs. Cats are alright but i love dogs. This should really have been step one 🙂
I have a boxer called Nanu, you can see her with Lorens dog Tommy below.
I mentioned myself and Loren live in an apartment so Nanu lives with my folks and i only see her 2-3 times a week.
Whenever i call over to take her out, shes waiting at the window riggling in excitement.
Shes heard the car arriving and ran upstairs to see me.
After about 10 minutes of jumping, licking and dragging every toy she can find from around the house, she calms down and i bring her out for her walk.
Whatever dog you have, im sure you get a very warm welcome home.
Having that sort of joy and happiness in your life is infectious and i challenge you to not smile and switch off as you’re welcomed home.
Dogs are awesome, especially boxers, so make sure you get one of them 😀
Heres a slightly unrelated video on active recovery where you can see myself and girlfriend
Loren on a walk with the dogs on Greystones beach.
I made the video for as part of our Stress and Recovery module for our Inner Circle clients.
Most of our clients are IC members and have access to a private membership website with educational material to help them achieve their goals.
They start in module one which covers nutrition, mindset, accountability, recovery and stress management.
Every four weeks they enter a new module, which covers the same topics but in more detail and explains them in a different way.
The biggest thing people are missing from their efforts to change their diet is education.
We need to learn about basic nutrition so we dont have to follow rigid rules or diets to achieve results and maintain them for life.
Thats what our Inner Circle program is all about and its the program most of our 28 Day Transformation Challenge clients graduate to.
The IC is a personal development system that teaches you about the key areas of fat loss and a healthy lifestyle change.
Nutrition, Mindset, Recovery and Stress Management and Accountability to tie it all together.
Train 3-4 time a week.
Reduce your caffeine intake in the afternoon.
Eat good quality protein.
Eat plenty of vegetables.
Meditate for at least 10 minutes a day.
Have some fun.
Get a dog.
Phil “Used to think meditation was just for hippies” Giffney
Personal Trainer Dublin and Body Transformation Gym in Blackrock, Dublin