Skinny people don’t have stress

What a ridiculous statement to make! But recently I was speaking at a conference on health and wellness and it sure sounded like that’s what they meant. The answer to everything was lose weight, stop smoking, eat right and exercise.

What advice do they have for people who are struggling with chronic illness, too much distress at work, or dealing with real grief and depression? You guessed it – lose weight, stop smoking, eat right and exercise.

So what do skinny, non-smoking, fit, healthy people do about stress? It all points out just how stress illiterate we really are.

Stress is a very complex subject. It’s not just a health issue or a diet issue or a weight issue. It’s also a medical issue and a legal issue and a productivity issue and family issue and quality of life issue. Stress owns its own domain and as such requires a whole new way of understanding and dealing with its complexities. So when it comes to stress we’ve got to move beyond deep breathing and broccoli into a new definition of stress management.

As a stress expert I explain that this most complicated of issues can be addressed in the simplest of ways: the best way to manage stress is to shorten the amount of time that passes between when you notice your distress and when you respond to it. When the body goes into a “Red Alert” – the natural stress response to real or imagined danger – everything in your body changes. From the hormones that are released into your bloodstream to the sharpness of your eyesight and the acuity of your hearing, your body is trying to give you a fighting chance to survive the attack.

That attack can be your boss piling on another project with a tight deadline, or you struggling with the issues of aging parents, maybe a co-worker is not pulling her weight or you have to have a difficult conversation with a friend. Whatever it is, your body responds internally to the threat even if your mouth or your actions never do.

So, you might need to lose weight, stop smoking, eat right and exercise but if I were you, I’d focus on listening to my body and responding to those “red alerts” as soon as you can. Who knows, giving your body what it needs just might make you skinny.

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