Undergoing weight loss surgery may cause you stress, which can affect your overall physical health after surgery. In times of stress, the body produces hormones, like cortisol, to help you handle a perceived threat. Also known as the “fight or flight” response, this natural occurrence affects weight loss, primarily because cortisol interferes with metabolism and overall digestive function.
Weight loss surgery not only signals significant changes in the body, it indicates an entire shift in your lifestyle. Along with shifting your eating and exercise habits, the ways in which you previously dealt with stress must change after weight loss surgery—especially poor stress management tactics like emotional eating.
Because you’re making many changes in a short amount of time, learning how to manage stress more easily will help you before, during and after weight loss surgery. No matter where you’re at on your weight loss journey, effectively managing your stress will help you in all areas of your life.
Keep Calm and Carry On
When stressed, you are more prone to revert to old habits, make rash decisions, speak harshly and respond in ways that you wouldn’t under less stressful circumstances. Conversely, if you don’t feel pressured, you’re more likely to choose healthy behaviors that support a wellness lifestyle. You’re also more willing to try new things and approach challenges with an optimistic attitude.
How do you stay calm under pressure? Consider the following techniques to slow you down before stress takes hold:
- Take a deep breath – The onset of stress is often marked by an increase in respiration rate. Your breathing may become more shallow and rapid, and some people subconsciously hold their breath for short periods of time when stressed. Taking a deep breath is one of the fastest ways to immediately feel relief. Even better, take at least four slow, deliberate breaths, exhaling as fully as possible between each breath to bring yourself into the moment with your body.
- Walk it off – If you can take a minute or two to go outside, a little exercise and physical separation from whatever you are doing that is triggering stress can help you enormously. Whether it’s a walk around the building, down the aisles of a nearby shopping center or a little walk down the hall, brief exercise will help you clear your mind and slow the stress response.
- Get those feelings out – If you can, express yourself to a friend or trusted counselor. Sometimes just having someone listen is all you need in order to feel less stressed. If you’re not in a situation where you can immediately talk to someone, jot down some notes about the way you’re feeling. You may want to consider keeping a stress journal to record what caused the stress and how you handled it. Over time, you may notice helpful patterns that can help you head off stress before it starts. If your mornings are constantly stressful, you may see that by getting up 20 minutes earlier, you’ll have the time you need to avoid a consistently stressful situation.
- Dream a little dream – Visualization techniques may prove useful to you to combat stress. Whether you get a guided mediation on CD or you create a “happy place” and imagine yourself there, using your mind to imagine being beyond the reach of the current stress can help you get into a more calm feeling place so you can return to your situation and handle it effectively.
Other ideas include taking up a new exercise like yoga or tai chi, expressing yourself artistically through painting or drawing or distracting yourself with a funny movie or book. Finding new ways to manage stress can help you keep up with your new healthy lifestyle after weight loss surgery, and may even help you find a new hobby or exercise you love.