Web MD -- Lives today are highly stressful, and according to the 2010 Stress in America Survey, money (76%), work (70%) and the economy (65%) were the most cited life stressors. Seventy-three percent of parents add "family responsibilities" to this list. And while 69% of stressed-out parents say managing stress is important, only about half feel they are doing a good or excellent job dealing with it.
Why does it matter? A growing body of research reveals a link between a stressful environment and excess body weight in adults and children. From a more robust appetite, rising hunger hormones and the promotion of fat stores — too much stress is no good.
While you can't always change stressful circumstances, you can change the way you react to them by addressing common myths that keep stress in the driver's seat.
1. I don't have time to eat healthy and exercise: The Stress in American Survey cites time as a leading barrier to healthier habits. The truth? It takes just as much time to eat a healthy, balanced meal as it does to eat less nutritionally desirable one. So what's really behind the time barrier?
When stressed, people often look at eating healthy as a time-consuming chore instead of a way to boost energy levels. With just a little bit of planning anyone can have healthy, fast food at their fingertips. Items such as instant oatmeal topped with walnuts and berries, fruit dipped in a favorite nut butter for a snack and pasta mixed with quickly cooked frozen veggies, premade chicken strips and a favorite sauce are quick, nutritious ways to satisfy hunger.
2. I need more willpower: People in the survey also said they needed more willpower to stick with healthy habits during stressful times. It's easy to see why this line of thinking doesn't work — who can drum up willpower when they are stressed and tired?
Instead of conjuring up elusive willpower to do the big things, start small and build. Take a 10-minute walk to refresh. Prep your lunch in those few free moments you have in the morning. Bring fresh fruit and nuts for a snack. Take five minutes to sit still during the day.
3. I need more money: Money was another stumbling block in the survey. Yeah, I often wish I could afford expensive yoga classes, personal trainers and my own chef, but then I realize that, while that would be nice, it certainly isn't necessary to lead a healthy life.
What will help you more than money is creativity and understanding what works for you. Where can you fit in quick bursts of activity? How can you save on the grocery bill while maximizing your health? How willing are you to change your eating and exercise strategy when things get chaotic?
4. I only have time to get stuff done late at night: The thought of going to bed early can scare stressed-out people with too much to do. Instead of feeling guilty for not getting the sleep you know is good for you, take one week to go to bed early and see how it affects your daily quality of life and stress management. Add a morning workout session to the mix (even if it's just 10 minutes) and see how much more you get done compared to your sleep deprived, exercise-free days.
5. There's nothing I can do about the stress: Spending all your time focusing on the stress only makes it grow. First, consider the things you can actually do to remove stressors. Can you say "no" to events that take a lot of time? Is it possible to downsize your living situation? Do you really have to work so many hours?
There is a magic pill that can instantly change anyone's outlook and it's called exercise. According to a 2008 study in International Journal of Workplace Health Management, over 70 percent of employees at one company said that on "exercise days" they experienced improved mental and interpersonal performance and better overall mood and managed their workload better.
Not only do healthy habits help you manage stress better, they help you avoid the extra weight and health problems that add a whole new stressor to your life. So instead of waiting for more time, money and willpower to reap the stress-fighting benefits of a healthy lifestyle, start where you are today.