April 25, 2012

It's Not Alzheimer's, It's Stress!

And so goes the emotional eating.
Stress and diet go hand in hand;
take care of the stress and you
may take care of the emotional
eating (you may).
Last weekend I had a very interesting chat with a very interesting person (you know who you are interesting person). She was beside herself with worry that the moments of memory loss and blackouts (sitting around a board room table) were the sure signs of dementia (a.k.a. Alzheimer's).  So, as I shoveled another handful of chips into my mouth (another blog for another time), I asked her what may be going on in her life that may have added to this chronic brain freeze.  From family stress, work stress, to her own thoughts, attitudes, and expectations, she went on for what seemed like a lifetime listing all the things going on in her life...to the point of tears.

I think it is safe to say that her memory loss wasn't due to her lack of synapses, but her chronic stress. 

Stress is now a part of the great "North American Dream". It is a part of our families, it is a part of our workplaces, it is a part of our DNA.  In one organization alone (that I know of), mental health issues make up 40% of employee absence....so what does it take for one to recognize and deal with the stresses of life? More importantly, why aren't our employers doing more to prevent it vs. treating it? (...oh the plight of the health promoter)

Did you know that stress can cause too many physical ailments to list? Things like skin rashes, aches and pains, fatigue, chronic illnesses (that includes links to cancer), headaches, and insomnia are just a few. Then we have stress related behavioural issues like addiction, aggression, and the overwhelming desire to lie on the couch with your blankie and a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies (mmmmm...warm cookies).  Stress can also cause procrastination and a sense of hopeless and depression (again...just to name a few). 

Stupid little stress ball. Sure, they
make great weapons  but do they
really reduce stress? They may
increase your blood pressure if
you pump them, but stress
reduction....I don't know.
The tricky part about stress is you almost don't know you are in it until you get out of it. People can withstand an amazing amount of pressure before they crumble.  However, it has been my experience (both personally and professionally) that there is a point at which you will end up in the fetal position; rocking back and forth until someone scrapes you off the floor (I've been scraped and I've been the scraper).

So what can you do now to help prevent a bad situation later...and why don't we do what we KNOW is going to help? Honestly, this keeps me up and night..I don't have the answers to why; but I can answer the what.

Stress management is all about self awareness. To know yourself enough to know when you are showing signs of stress is one of your best prevention tools.  However, once you become aware, you must be ready to do something about it. If you need to take a day for yourself...do it. If you need to get more sleep...do it. If you need to cancel all appointments so you and your spouse can reconnect...do it. There are no reasons big enough (in my opinion) for turning a chronic blind eye to what you need to be healthy.

Real Life Health offers group and individual programs that focus, not only the self awareness, but the behaviour change that comes with implementing a stress management plan. It does take a little effort and time in the beginning, but soon you are able to manage it quite well without having to experience the turmoil, discomfort, and drama of chronic stress.  Why would anyone chose drama over health (not that I don't do that sometimes...but I still ask the question)?

Before jumping to any conclusions, or
worry you are losing your mind, take
a little stress inventory. 
It continues to amaze me why we would spend (for example) $500/hour on someone to give us social media advice and not pay $75 - $100 an hour to help provide lifestyle skills that will provide you with a return on investment far above anything else. We save for retirement only to reap the benefits of a lifestyle full of stress (a.k.a. sick and injured). We say we can't afford health counselling only to pay a fortune for those really cute strappy sandals (...although I tend to understand that more than anything... just kidding...sort of).

We tend to focus our attention on diet and exercise when stress is one of the leading causes of physical and mental illness.

How is stress effecting you? How can you make a change? What is holding you back from a healthier way of life? So many questions...so little time.

That's all I got.

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