We all know that stress is not great for our health and wellbeing, in fact chronic stress is related to a number of inflammatory issues and diseases with the body and has been linked to a number of illness; cancer, depression, arthritis, alzheimers.. the list is endless.
Every persons unique expression of both stress and the ensuing impacts on the body can be quite different in expression, but we do know that common lifestyle going mechanisms (abuse of food, drugs, alcohol and yes in some cases exercise) all impact the body negatively.
Here’s How Your Body “Gets Fat On Stress”
When you’re consistently stressed out or struggling emotionally, cortisol can remain elevated continuously, and you’ll see and feel the effects on your waistline. Here are the most noticeable side effects of chronically elevated cortisol:
- Water Retention – have you ever worked late into the night, slept poorly and awoken the next morning with a puffy, bloated face? That’s cortisol for you. It acts as an anti-diuretic causing water retention that can lead to extremely rapid weight gain.
- Loss of Muscle Mass–cortisol stimulates gluconeogenesis, the production of sugar from amino acids in the liver. So during times of stress, your body literally eats its own lean muscle mass for quick energy. The combination of less muscle and more sugar in your bloodstream leads to rapid weight gain.
- Insulin Resistance – insulin is the fat storage hormone. It keeps your blood sugar within a safe range. Unfortunately, cortisol counteracts insulin and leads to insulin resistance, a common condition among overweight people where your body needs more and more insulin to produce the same blood sugar balance. And since insulin is the fat storage hormone, the more insulin you have in circulation, the more your body becomes a fat storage machine.
So how do you reverse the effects of stress without band-aiding the problem? How do you manage stress better?
Your Brain & Meditation: Finding Balance
Your brain has 4 distinct “wave states” that correspond to drastically different emotional and physical responses in your body. A healthy individual spends some portion of the day and night in all 4 brain wave states. As you’ve probably already guessed, our modern, over stimulating and stressful world can keep us from achieving balance.
BETA: when you’re overworked and overstressed, this is where you get “stuck.”
ALPHA: this is where you need to spend more time to balance out and heal your body mental, physically, and hormonally.
During waking hours, we are usually in beta brain wave state due to our hectic lives, but we’d like to spend more time in the alpha state as it provides balance, calm, and peace to our hyper-active beta moments.
The 4 Brain Wave States
- BETA – when you’re wide-awake and alert, making decisions, thinking critically, and multi-tasking, you’re almost always in a beta brain wave state. When you’re stressed out, anxious, and overworked, you tend to linger here longer than you should, even when what you really need is to relax.
- ALPHA – this is the brain wave state associated with relaxation, creativity, love, and awareness. After prayer, meditation, or a loving encounter you’ll usually find yourself in an alpha state. This alpha state balances out your beta moments, and in an ideal world, you’d fluctuate back and forth between alpha and beta throughout the day.
- THETA – here, your brain is in a very deep state of meditation where intuition is peaked, memory is sharp, and you’re so relaxed you’re nearly asleep—but not quite. Many of the greatest thinkers in history reported “big breakthroughs” in the moments just before sleep, and it’s highly likely they were in a theta brain wave state during those times.
- DELTA – this is the deepest of brain wave states associated with healing and rejuvenating deep sleep. Human growth hormone is triggered in the delta state, and it’s believed to be a time when the unconscious and conscious mind work to resolve conflicts in your life.
Throughout the day, you probably notice that your mood, concentration, and emotions change periodically. This is normal and healthy; but in our modern world, we tend toward imbalance with more and more of our waking hours spent in states of hyper-activity, stress, and anxiety.
At times, I’m sure you’ve said common phrases such as, “I just need to unwind,” or “I really need some downtime.” On a brain wave level, what you’re really saying is, “I’ve been in a beta state too long, and I need some alpha time to rejuvenate.”
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So who needs more alpha? We all do…
The beta brain wave state is not bad, it’s actually incredibly important for times of concentrations, decision-making, and cognition. But for creativity, connectedness, love, and peace, we all need to dip down into the alpha state regularly.
The Alpha State = Drop in Cortisol
You’ve learned how devastating cortisol can be for weight loss, so the goal is to take action to keep cortisol and the “stress response” under control. You want to do your best to help your brain enjoy some peaceful, calming alpha waves throughout the day, particularly before bed and during times of heightened stress.
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