When you're under stress, your body releases the hormone cortisol as part of the fight-or-flight response. Too much stress leads to an overabundance of cortisol, which science has linked with weight gain - particularly fat storage around the midsection (the most unhealthy place to store fat). Here are five ways to beat stress:
- Plan a healthy girls' outing with your female family members. "Take your sister or mother-in-law to a yoga class. It's like a spa - but so good for you," says Nicole Glor, a personal trainer at Crunch Fitness in New York City and creator of NikkiFitness DVDs.
- “Claim space for yourself,” says endurance sports coach Sage Rountree, author of The Athlete's Guide to Yoga. Go to your bedroom or the guest room where you're staying, lock the door and lie flat on the ground with your legs up the door for 10 minutes. "It's a great stretch, helps drain the fluid from your legs and gives you some downtime."
- Take five minutes to just breathe. Inhale deeply and fill your belly with air. Extending the exhalation will engage your parasympathetic nervous system, which triggers a relaxation response, Rountree says.
- Dance! Not only is dancing great exercise (have you ever noticed the sleek physiques of ballroom dancers?), but it's also pure fun. Take half an hour, turn on the music and just let yourself go. Family dance can be great fun too. Let each family member take turns leading the movement.
- Remember to be in the moment. "Our suffering comes from not accepting what is happening," Rountree says. Instead of wishing you were at the gym when you're stuck at that holiday party, commit yourself to being present where you are.
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