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Posts Tagged "staff well being"

Is Stress Making You Fat? Cultivating a Healthy Relationship Between You and Food

Posted on July 29th, 2013 by julie

Part A:

How Does Stress Affect Weight Gain?

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We are all aware of the relationships that we have with other people in our lives, but how aware are you of the relationships going on within yourself. We are made up of mind, body and spirit and each of these parts are connected and have a relationship with each other. If this relationship is not balanced and healthy, weight gain and ill health can be the result.

When it comes to our weight, all of the above are important considerations.  Part B of this article will focus on the psychological – how we think and feel.  Part A will help us to understand how everything we think and feel is transferred into hormones and chemicals and these have a direct affect on us physiologically

So, let’s first ask the question:

Is Stress Making You Fat?

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Most people admit that when they’re under stress, healthy eating habits can be difficult to maintain. Whether eating to fill an emotional need or grabbing fast food simply because there’s no time to prepare something healthy, a stressed-out lifestyle is rarely a healthy one. But weight gain when under stress, according to some researchers, may also be at least partly due to the body’s system of hormonal checks and balances, which can actually promote weight gain when you’re stressed out

There are several ways in which stress can contribute to weight gain. When we’re under stress, the fight or flight response is triggered in our bodies, leading to the release of various hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline.  The hypothalamus directs the adrenal glands to secret these very important hormones

Cortisol has been termed the “stress hormone” because excess cortisol is secreted during times of physical or psychological stress. Cortisol stimulates fat and carbohydrate metabolism for fast energy (for when we are threatened), stimulates insulin release, increases blood pressure, suppresses the immune system (this is essential for the flight and fight response) and increases blood sugar levels. The end result of these actions can be an increase in appetite

Adrenaline is vital to increase your alertness and energy levels during times of threat. Cortisol works to also increase energy by increasing the production of glucose from protein

Cortisol, however, has another purpose. After stress, adrenaline tends to dissipate but cortisol lingers to help bring the body back into balance. Now here is the clincher- one of the ways cortisol works to get our system back into balance is to increase our appetite so we can replace the carbohydrate and fat that we should have used if under a fight and flight situation

Robert M. Sapolsky, Ph.D., a professor of biological sciences and neuroscience at Stanford University states, if stress and cortisol levels stay high, so will insulin levels. This continual stress leads to a constant state of excess cortisol production, which stimulates glucose production. This excess glucose then typically is converted into fat, ending up as stored fat.

Cortisol secretion may not only promote weight gain, but it can also affect where you put on the weight. Some studies have shown that stress and elevated cortisol tend to cause fat to be deposited on the abdominal area. This is sometimes called “toxic fat” since abdominal fat is strongly correlated with the development of cardiovascular disease including heart attacks and strokes.

Ok, I know that is a lot of science but I think it is essential to understand the biochemistry of stress and how this is thought to contribute to weight gain.

It is important to remember that the production of adrenaline and cortisol are essential to the stress response and hence to our survival. The issue for us today is that the modern stress response has more to do with overload and busyness than with running from a lion. This means that we do not utilize these hormones in the way they were intended and yes, stress can make us sick and possibly fat.

So How Does Stress Affect Weight Gain?

I often tell my clients that self awareness is the first key to resolving your problems. As you read these points, take note of which ones are relevant to you. Meditate and/or journal on them.

Cortisol Cravings

Among other things, high levels of cortisol can create cravings for salty and sweet foods. In previous centuries, this enabled people to bulk up on foods that would sustain them during times when food is scarce; however, in modern times and industrialized nations, when food is rarely scarce, this really is necessary and can cause excess weight gain

Social Eating

Socializing is about having fun and of course this means eating and drinking. When upset we often seek out friends and go and have a drink or some comfort food to help us feel better. Have you noticed how friends love to feed you when you are upset?

Nervous Energy

When stressed or anxious, many people want to fidget with their mouths. Sometimes this leads to nail biting or teeth grinding, and often it leads to eating when not hungry. Many people, out of nervousness or boredom, just munch on comfort food to give their mouths something to do.  This is also very similar to many smokers

Childhood Habits

Many of us have comforting childhood memories that revolve around food. Food was used to celebrate, feel better, be rewarded and even to punish. As adults, when we find ourselves in similar positions we often revert back to how this was handled as a child.  What are some childhood food habits that you think are not working for you as an adult?

Avoiding  Emotions

Another reason that many people eat is to quiet uncomfortable emotions. People who are uncomfortable with confrontation may deal with frustrations in their marriage with a piece of cake, for example, rather than with open communication. Food can take the focus off of anger, resentment, fear, anxiety, and a host of other emotions we’d sometimes rather not feel, and is often used for this purpose. Just watch a romance movie and see how the heroine always turns to a bucket of ice cream. I call it using food to medicate our pain

Slows Down Our Metabolism

Besides all the things we discussed above about cortisol, it can also slow down your metabolism and when you combine this with stress stimulating your appetite you have a double whammy for weight gain

Pleasure Cravings

When under stress, people do not usually reach for a nice healthy salad. We tend to crave foods that are fatty, salty or sugary (maybe even all of them). These are what we would call comfort foods

Blood Sugar

Prolonged stress can alter your blood sugar levels, causing mood swings, fatigue, and conditions like hyperglycemia.  Hyperglycemia is our body’s way of telling us we need to put some food into our system to increase our energy supply. Of course this may not really be true just confused messages from your blood sugar levels caused by stress

Fat Storage

Excessive stress even affects where we tend to store fat. Higher levels of stress are linked to greater levels of abdominal fat. Unfortunately, abdominal fat is linked with greater health risks than fat stored in other areas of the body.

Too Busy to Exercise

With all the demands on your schedule, exercise may be one of the last things on your to-do list. If so, you’re not alone. We live a more sedentary lifestyle than we have in past generations, yet our minds seem to be racing from everything we have to do. Unfortunately, from sitting in traffic, clocking hours at our desks, and plopping in front of the TV in exhaustion at the end of the day, exercise often goes by the wayside.

Stay tuned for Part B of this article: “Why Mindset is the Secret Key to Weight Loss”

 Julie Spain

If you would like further help in changing your mindset once and for all or a copy of my ebook “Change Your Habits: Change Your Life”, simply send me an email at julie@sigmamindset.com

Julie Spain is the Owner of Sigma Mindset and a Life and Leadership Coach, Trainer and Public Speaker to Executives, Professionals and Business Owners.  Julie specializes in strategic mindset coaching that: Makes a Difference and Makes It Quick

Care of the Carer: Preventing Burnout and Maintaining Performance

Posted on April 10th, 2013 by julie

Are you in the Human Service Industry?  Do you care for your fellow man in some way? Professions such as, firefighter, police, ambulance officer, nurse, doctor, mental health professional, aged and disability care all fall under these categories

Let me say straight out: these are special people. They give and give and give and often they give more than they really have to give which sometimes leaves them burnout.

Now “burnout” is a term that has been around a very long time (since the 1970’s) and as often happens, we become desensitized to commonly used terms and often brush them off particularly if it applies to us. But I can tell you burnout is alive and well in the workplace (and it is not solely the ownership of the caring professions but for the purpose of this article that is what I am talking about today)

When I was in private practice, I would sometimes see up to eight clients a day for counselling. I always said it was like sitting an eight hour exam but it just kept on going day after day, week after week. One week, I worked with two women who had been raped. At this time of my life I had 3 young children and had become an expert in not taking my work home. But this week was different. I found myself thinking about the sad situations of these lovely young women. It didn’t take me long to figure out that I was burnout and if I was suffering in this way my performance was as a consequence compromised

So What is Burnout?

According to Wikipedia, “burnout is a psychological term for the experience of long-term exhaustion and diminished interest.”

Maslach and her colleague Jackson first identified the construct “burnout” in the 1970s, and developed a measure, the Maslach Burnout Inventory, that weighs the effects of emotional exhaustion and reduced sense of personal accomplishment

Maslach and her colleague, Michael Leiter, defined the antithesis of burnout as, engagement, characterized by energy, involvement and efficacy, as opposed to burnout which is characterised by exhaustion, cynicism and inefficacy

This in turn can affect job performance, physical health, mental health and relationships

As you can see, it would be much easier to prevent burnout rather than try to repair it

So let’s have a look at:

10 Steps to Prevent Burnout and Maintain Effective Performance Within the Helping Professions:

1.       Watch for your personal warning signs –

Your unique radar that tells you something is wrong within you system. This can be physical, behavioural, mental, emotional or relational. The sooner you catch these signs the better as the longer you let it progress the greater the possibility that your self awareness will diminish. It is common to have others pointing out the changes within you while you are busy denying these changes

2.       Know and implement your personal and professional boundaries

Personal boundaries are the physical, emotional and mental limits we establish to protect ourselves from being manipulated by others or simply to protect ourselves from a busy work and life schedule.  They allow us to separate who we are, and what we think and feel, from the thoughts and feelings of others. Their presence helps us express ourselves as the unique individuals we are, while we acknowledge the same in others.

It would not be possible to enjoy health, peak performance and healthy relationships without the existence of personal boundaries, or without our willingness to communicate them directly and honestly with others.

To learn more about this important topic read my blog:

“Organisational Skills for Busy Professionals: Developing Personal Boundaries in the Workplace That Save Time, Energy, Money and Relationships”

3.       Develop cultural intelligence

Here cultural intelligence refers to both the organisational culture you work within and the various ethnic and socio economic groups you work with.  Culture is always about “the way we do things around here”.  If you are at odds or incongruent with the culture you find yourself working within, it will take a toll on your mindset and wellbeing. We need sensitivity and the ability to adapt our behaviour to perform effectively while still being true to our own values and identity

4.        Understand your professional identity

This can be particularly difficult if you are new to your profession. It does take time and experience to develop. My suggestion would be to put it on your awareness radar and make it part of your professional agenda to pursue this.  Understanding and then being true to your professional identity will allow you to stand with feet firmly planted when the storms come to blow and blow they will

5.       Have a clear role definition

This is clearly linked to your professional identity but role definition translates more into what you do rather than how you see yourself.  Role definition gives clarity and with that comes confidence and assurance. Are you trying to be all things to all people? Of course this is not possible and simple revisiting your role may clear this up

 6.       Have both a preventative and crisis stress management strategy

Yes, they are different! Self care is truly about putting into yourself on a regular basis so you actually have something to give out. Crisis management is for those unexpected times that life and work can throw at us

For more on the topic of self care have a look at my blog:

“Achieving Work/Life Balance: The Secrets to Vitality and Success”

7.       Build your resilience

Resilience is a wonderful term that at its most basic means: “bouncing back when the going gets tough”.  Let’s face it, work and life does not always go the way we want it too. When times get tough, the question is always: “which road should I take, the road to being overwhelmed or the road to bouncing back?”

If you are interested in increasing your resilience skills then you may like to read my ebook:

“Thriving Not Just Surviving a Life Crisis: How to Bounce Back and Find Happiness Again”

8.       Monitor your self confidence and self esteem

When our self belief is down, our confidence goes down. When our confidence is down it is more difficult to make decisions, enjoy life, communicate our needs and protect yourself. Do a quick confidence check every so often just to know that you are on track

9.       Know your limits and your strengths

Knowing your professional limits will protect both yourself and your client. You cannot be all things to all people and you do not need to be.  Knowing your strengths allows you to give the best of yourself to others. If you are not sure about these things then ask a trusted colleague or your professional coach or supervisor

10.   Regular supervision or coaching

The helping professions can be lonely and taxing. When you make a mistake, it can have grave consequences for your client and most of us take this very seriously.  We need the opportunity to debrief after events and strategize before certain situations. Coaching or supervision gives you someone to bounce off, to give you another perspective, to learn from, to download with. Why wouldn’t you cultivate this very important relationship?

You may be wondering what I did when faced with burnout in my personal story that I shared previously?  Well I took rather drastic action and downsized my private practice. I knew myself and knew the warning signs were severe for me. My non negotiable was taking work home and I was determined to protect my family from my work. As life would have it, taking care of myself and my family led to other amazing career opportunities

If you would like further help for yourself or your organisation or to attend my upcoming course see below:

CARE OF THE CARER: PREVENTING BURNOUT AND MAINTAINING PERFORMANCE

  • Personal and professional boundaries
  • Preventing vicarious trauma
  • Role definition and professional identity
  • Knowing your limits: Know your  strengths, manage your weaknesses
  • Resilience Building
  • Preventing burnout

 Just email me for further information at julie@sigmamindset.com  or phone 0430186415

Until next time

Julie Spain

 

 

 

Entrepreneurial Business Success – Don’t Quit, Think About Why You Started!

Posted on April 10th, 2012 by julie

What do you think the biggest enemy to your business is? Cash flow? Staff problems? Venture capital? No plan or goal? No effective systems? Of course they are all important but for me there is a much more sinister threat that is not often discussed in all those hugely successful business books. Of course by now you are asking – “What is it?”

Discouragement!

You know that feeling when nothing seems to go right. When no matter what you do and how hard you work it is just not happening. You pour everything you have into this great new idea – your time, love, money, energy, passion. You give up all the things you love to focus on making your dreams come true. Isn’t that what all the good books say?

That you have to stay focused. Block out everything else in your life and give everything you have to your dream. This is how the winners do it. If you don’t believe me read Napoleon Hill’s very famous book “Think and Grow Rich”.

You know what? I believe them but it just doesn’t stop that terrible churning eating away at your stomach until you start to think – why am I doing this? It is just too hard.

Every so often I have days like this. Do you? If so, what keeps you going? We all realize that of course, if we do not keep going, then our dreams will not come to fruition. There is this wonderful experiment that was performed a number of years ago with preschool children. The children were taken into a room and told by the person looking after them that they had to leave the room. They put a marshmallow in front of the child and told them that if they could wait until they came back and not eat the marshmallow in front of them that they would receive two marshmallows when they came back. The worker then left the room and watched them through a window. Some children put the marshmallow straight in their mouths, others just licked them and put them back and others simply did not touch the marshmallow and promptly received another when the worker came back. This longitudinal study followed these children up later in life and found that the children who were able to delay gratification had achieved more success in their lives than the ones who could not delay gratification.

The immediate is not always easy and there is always something more enticing to do with our time than work. But history does show that the more we can delay gratification the greater our chance of success.

So what are some ways that I use to deal with discouragement so that I can keep moving my business forward?

1. Make sure you have good support networks. Sometimes you will really need to download a hard day with a very sympathetic ear

2. Give yourself some time out to enjoy your favourite activities

3. Try to mix with likeminded people

4. Have a mentor or coach (see my coaching page at http://sigmamindset.com/services/leadership-development-and-coaching ) it really is a prerequisite for success

5. Everyday come back to your commitment. What is it that you are trying to achieve and do you still want it just as much as you did originally?

6. You must have a strong belief that you can do this

7. An attitude that every problem has an answer – just make sure you look in the smartest places for an answer

8. One that I try and apply everyday is an attitude of gratitude regardless of the circumstances. There is always something to be grateful for

Until next time

Julie Spain

Business Mindset Strategist

www.sigmamindset.com

Achieving Work/Life Balance: The Secrets to Vitality and Success

Posted on June 27th, 2010 by julie

Let’s face it – generally, we are not that good at caring for ourselves! Others maybe but often when it comes to our own wellbeing, we run out of time, energy and resources.

In over 26 years of working with staff and managers in the workforce, there is one theme that keeps recurring more than anything else – a loss of vitality due to feeling overwhelmed and experiencing burnout.

In fact, I was spending so much of my time with people going through basic self care and biochemistry that I put a video (How to Super Charge Your Energy and Your Life) online and now just regularly send client there

During a time of personal crisis (my divorce), I did something that is probably exactly the opposite of what most people do during crisis – I started a program of determined self care and balance. At the time, I had a very busy job with approximately 150 staff but I had a deep drive motivating me – to take responsibility for my children and knew, that there was really only one way for me to achieve this – I had to put into myself so that I could achieve the goals I had set myself – to take care of my children and build a new life better than the old. I found the time and resources to exercise, eat correctly, find emotional and practical support and yes, even have fun.

Think of a balance wheel made up of your five parts – emotional, physical, mental, spiritual and relationship (includes personal and work) and ask yourself the question “Where does most of my finite daily supply of energy go? Many people will answer that nearly 80% of their daily energy supply goes into the work section. Of course, this only leaves 20% to deal with all other areas of your life! No wonder we hear people say things like – “I feel so overwhelmed”, “There is never enough time in the day”, “I’m not sure if I can keep going”. Maybe these are the sorts of things that you are saying to yourself?

If so, here are 7 tips for cultivating balance in your life, by caring for each part of yourself so that you can achieve the health and success that you dream about:

1. Take care of your body.

This requires both the right food and the right exercise. Eat as close to nature as possible, cutting out the processed foods. Small serves of protein three times a day to combat fatigue and if life is stressful for you at the moment, cut out stimulants such as alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and sugar (nicotine may be the hardest so start with the other three)

2. Take care of your fitness.

Amazing things happen biochemically when we exercise – we produce good chemicals, such as endorphins and serotonin, and get rid of “bad” chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol. Just 30 – 40 minutes of exercise at 60 – 80% of your heart rate will do the trick

3. Deposit into a “support account”.

Research indicates that people recover from crisis or trauma better when they have psychological and practical support around them. Isn’t this the basis of our peer support programs? New research (Dan Beuttner “The Blue Zones” ) now shows us that belonging to a community or family that gives and receives love and support actually contributes to longevity and vitality. If you have not been born into this sort of network, you will need to cultivate it and develop supportive networks so that when you need someone to listen to you, a listening ear will be available

4. Tune in to the power of purpose.

Dan Beuttner’s research has shown a number of factors that contribute to longevity and vitality. He found 4 areas around the world where higher percentage than normal, live to over 100 years. We have mentioned three of these important factors already: eat food close to nature, keep moving, give and receive love and affection and the final one is have a sense of purpose. Life purpose gets us up in the morning. It motivates us to press forward and do the best we can. In fact just having a job to get up to, helps us live longer than those who don’t. If you want to explore this spiritual aspect further I’d suggest Rick Warren’s book “Purpose Driven Life”

5. Unblock your mental and emotional blockages to health and success.

Our brain works with our thoughts and feelings on two different layers or levels, the conscious and the subconscious. The accepted belief is that only 10% of our mind is the conscious brain. Our thoughts, feelings and senses are greatly influenced by our subconscious. The subconscious is thought to make up 90% of our mind. Did you know that it is generally accepted that success is 90% determined by the mind and only 10% by the actions we perform. At this point we might start to realize the huge effect the mind with its thoughts and emotions, has on the outcome for our life.

6. Recognize and when necessary deal with your emotions

Did you realize that negative emotions can make you sick and keep you locked into the past? Yet positive emotions are synonymous with good health and success. Although we need to feel our emotions, they are not meant to control us. Take notice of them and deal with the situations that may be causing negative emotions. One way to do this is:

7. Keep a personal journal

Journaling has a number of benefits including:

  • a cathartic experience that allows you to experience and release emotions
  • the opportunity to concretize your thoughts and allow you to hopefully make more informed decisions.

There really are more tips for cultivating life balance than I can fit into this article but my hope is that you will choose just one of these and start yourself on the road to self care, vitality and success.

If you feel you could use some further help, then you may be interested in my one day course:

Achieving Work/Life Balance: The Secrets to Vitality and Success

We will be covering this topic and many others such as:

  • Understanding the importance of balance when it comes to dealing with stress
  • How to increase your energy and vitality
  • Taking control over your mindset and life
  • Actually leaving work at work
  • Dealing with emotions that can rob you of your joy of life
  • Increasing your performance and productivity at work and in life

Just email me for further information at julie@sigmamindset.com or phone 0430186415

Until next time

Julie Spain