Time is of the essence and so many of us now feel time poor to the extend that it impacts on our everyday lives, creating additional stress in an already stressful world. Managing your time effectively is vital to your health and wellbeing as is managing stress levels whatever their cause.

There are some simple steps you can take towards controlling stress and limiting its effect on your health. Living North talks to Tony Douglass of Bodyguards Personal Training to gain an expert insight into how to reduce stress and learn to manage everyday stressful situations through exercise and diet.

‘The first thing to remember about stress is that it is everywhere. Stress is necessary for us to evolve, adapt and overcome. However, balancing stress levels is important because excess stress is detrimental to health.’ explains Tony. ‘Over stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system i.e. the release of excessive adrenaline, leads to you bouncing from crisis to crisis, constantly being on edge: the Fight or Flight Syndrome, and the release of catabolic hormones like Cortisol, which breakdown muscles and bone, inhibit growth and repair can eventually lead to illness.

It is well documented that a prolonged period of stress will lead to weight gain. If the fight or flight response is activated under acute stress it will usually cause a temporary loss of appetite. However, when this response is going on day after day out due to constant stress, it results in an increase in appetite and this constant stress response leads the body to increase or ‘store’ abdominal fat deposits. This same storage mechanism helped our ancestors survive during times of stress caused by lack of food or other threatening conditions.

Constant stress causes weight gain by depositing ‘visceral fat’ around the waistline in particular. These fat cells lie deep within the abdomen and have been linked to an increase in both diabetes and heart disease. The fuel our muscles need during fight or flight is sugar which is why in particular we crave high glycemic index (GI) carbohydrates during times of stress. The increased consumption of high GI carbohydrates requires high levels of insulin. When sugar and insulin levels rise rapidly this signals the body to store body fat. Cortisol is the hormone in particular that steers us towards high GI carbohydrates.

Managing Stress

As our society becomes more health-conscious, there has been an increased focus on the importance of exercise control weight and get in better physical condition, to become more healthy or physically attractive, but exercise and stress management are also closely linked.’

According to a New York Times article, the cost of stress to business in the US in absenteeism, lost productivity, turnover and illness is somewhere between $200 and $300 billion a year. In the hard economic times that we now live in, business and individuals alike cannot afford this loss.

It has become essential for us to recognise the stay fighting fit with stress-busting ways we can manage negative stress. Diet, hydration levels, sleep, rest, relaxation and activity levels can all have a hugely positive effect on stress levels.


Basically you are what you eat. You only get out of your body what you put into it. If you eat well you can expect to have :

By trying to follow some of these simple guidelines your diet should improve dramatically

Breakfast is still by far the most important meal of the day

A bad breakfast or no breakfast can lead to snacking, caffeine or sugar cravings. Worse still it can cause the body to look for nutrients within itself and breakdown muscle and bone to provide protein and calcium to the blood. (Catabolic state)

This excessive nutritional stress has a highly detrimental effect on the function of the the systems of the body.

Taking frequent effective exercise is one of the best stress-reduction techniques available. Exercise note only improves your health and reduces physical stress created from being unfit, it also relaxes tense muscles and helps you to sleep.

Exercise has a number of other positive benefits you may not be aware of:

There are many wrong approaches to exercise. Some traditionally recommended forms of exercise actually damage your body over the medium- or long term. Your doctor is a good starting point for recommending good forms of exercise.

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