Session 10

Stress Matters

The stress in our lives is often an obstacle to achieving a healthy lifestyle and preventing chronic disease. The good news is that there are effective ways to avoid, reduce and cope with stress.

Sara’s Story

Sara

Sara is 45 years old. She feels pulled in all directions. Her children are still in high school. Her father has bad health problems. Plus, Sara works full time and is divorced.

Sara’s doctor tells her she’s at risk for type 2 diabetes. He urges her to lose weight by eating less and getting more active.
Sara sighs. To her, taking care of herself is just one more thing to do.

How Stress affects you

Many people react to stress by changing their eating and activity habits. Some may eat and drink too much as a way to deal with stress. Some become very inactive and/or withdrawn.

We understand that it can be stressful even to participate in this program and to think about all the lifestyle changes you may need to make. Changing behavior and asking your family to make changes to help you can also create stress.

Feeling stressed can cause you to engage in unhealthy behaviors:
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Make unhealthy choices about your food & beverages

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Slack off on fitness goals

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Drink alcohol- which may be high in calories and may decrease your judgement leading to overeating

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Forget things

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Spend too much time watching TV or using the computer

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Put off doing the things you need to do

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Rush around without getting much done

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Sleep too little, too much, or both

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Smoke

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Work too much

Sara’s Story

Sara

To make herself feel better after a long difficult day, Sara often “treats herself” with a bowl of ice cream once all her chores are done.

Evidence shows that stress changes your body chemistry in a way that adds to your risk for diabetes. Therefore, knowing what situations make you feel stressed and planning accordingly to cope with them is important. Managing stress can help you make better choices for preventing or delaying type 2 diabetes.

Ways to Prevent Stress

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Take charge of your time

– Make realistic schedules.
– Get organized.
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Reach out to people for support.

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Plan ahead

– Think about the kind of situations that are stressful for you
– Plan how to handle them or to work around them.
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Be physically active. Physical activity is a great stress reducer.

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Keep things in perspective. Remember your purpose.

– Think of all the good things in your life.
– Remember why you joined this program.
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Use problem solving techniques

– Describe the problem in detail
– Think of all your options.
– Pick one option to try.
– Make an action plan.
– Try the plan. See how it goes.

An Ounce of Prevention . . .

The old saying “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is certainly true when it comes to stress. It’s best to avoid stress whenever we can. However, if we cannot avoid stress, there are ways to manage it.

Ways to Reduce Stress

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Know yourself

– Know what situations make you feel stressed. Plan how to cope with them.
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Remind yourself

– Use notes, calendars, timers— whatever works for you.
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Make a to-do list

– Put the most important things on top.
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Set small, doable goals

– Divide large goals (like weight loss) into smaller chunks.
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Keep your things tidy and in order

– Clutter can be unsettling.
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Just say "no"

– Learn how to say no to things you don’t really want or need to do.
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Ask for help

– Feel free to ask your friends and family for help. They care about you and want the best for you. And you can help them another time.
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Address problems

– When you have a problem, try to solve it promptly. That way, it won’t become a source of stress in your life.
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Get enough sleep

– Shoot for 8 hours per night.
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Have fun

– Make time to do something you enjoy. Go for a walk with a friend, read a book, or watch a movie … whatever makes you happy.
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Take care of your body and mind.

– That way, you’ll be more prepared to tackle stressful situations.
There’s no surefire way to avoid all stress. But there are ways to cope with it and find ways to relax in spite of it.

Ways to Relax

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Relax your muscles

Scrunch up your face muscles. Hold for 5 seconds. Now release. Feel your face muscles relax. Do the same with your jaw, shoulder, arm, chest, leg, and foot muscles in turn.
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Meditate

Focus on something simple that you find calming. It could be an image or a sound. Don’t worry if other thoughts get in the way. Just go back to your image or sound.
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Use Imagery

Imagine a scene that makes you feel peaceful. Try to picture yourself there.
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Breathe deeply

Relax your stomach muscles. Place one hand just below your ribs. Take a slow, deep breath through your nose. Feel your hand go up. Now breathe out slowly through your mouth. Make sure to breathe out all the way. Feel your hand go down.
It may take time to see results. Try to practice relaxation for at least 10 minutes a day. Listen to calming music, if it helps. At first, it may be easier to relax if you lie down in a dark, quiet room. But in time, you’ll be able to relax anytime, anywhere.

Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress

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Count to 20 in your head

– This can give your brain a needed break.
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Soothe yourself

– Get a massage, take a hot bath, have a cup of herbal tea, or put on some calming music.
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Give yourself a pep talk

– Say something calming, like: “There’s no rush. I can take my time.”
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Stretch.

– Do yoga or other stretching exercises.
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Re-think

– Things may not be as bad as they seem to be.
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Take a breather

– If you can, walk away or take a break from whatever is making you feel stressed.
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Talk about your feelings

– Tell a friend or counselor how you feel.
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Cut back on caffeine

– Caffeine can make you feel jumpy and anxious.
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Get moving!

– Do something active—even if it’s just a walk around the block.
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Doing something fun

– Go out dancing, go shopping, call a friend. Do whatever you enjoy—as long as it’s healthy.

Sara’s Story

Sara

Nowadays Sara tries to de-stress by taking a 15 min walk around her neighborhood as soon as she comes home. She’s also learned that a long shower at the end of the evening helps her feel less stressed and more in control, and the 300 calories she saves from not eating the ice cream helps her reach her 500 calorie deficit for the day.

Create A Positive Action Plan

Stress can interfere with the work you have done in this program. Using the tools and skills discussed in this session, practice preventing and avoiding stress so you can stay focused on your goals.
During the week, I will:
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Identify one stressor to start working on. Think about stressors related to finances, health, family, friends, work, traffic

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Think about the ways I respond to stress that are obstacles to achieving a healthy lifestyle.

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Come up with strategies to practice managing each stressor in healthier ways.

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Keep track of my weight, calories, and physical activity