The missing link to obesity, anxiety and depression

I am not surprised at the results found in a new study on Canada Federal Government Executives, which shows a sharp rise in obesity, anxiety and depression (1).  The number of executives battling depression has nearly doubled in the past five years as they struggle with demanding jobs, tired and wired bosses, and shrinking resources.  But what about you?

It’s not only executives: it’s you and me.  The Canadian Mental Health Association reports that 20% of Canadians are battling with anxiety and depression (2).  And obesity?  25% of the Canadian adult population, according to the Public Health Agency (3) – double to 1980’s stats.  Yes, stats are depressing, but you can do something about it – easily, too.

It doesn’t have to be that way – The anxiety and stress that lead to obesity and depression can be tamed in a few easy, simple steps.  It’s just a matter of priorities.

An ordinary day:  It’s Tuesday morning and you’re rushing to work, stopping to get the first of the three large coffees you’ll need to get through your work day.  Your report due at the 1pm meeting is finally ready – thanks to the wonders of email and late night work.  Lunch?  No time today, as you squeeze in a few emails, after this morning interruptions – a sick coworker, new files and so on.  By the time your day is over, well, your day is over.  You’ve got no energy left for much – you feed your kids (or your dog), then forage for yourself.  It’s barely 8pm and you’re dead tired, but too wired to sleep, and then you’ve got emails to look at.  By 9pm, the emails, done as you watch TV, are mostly dealt with.  Time for yourself tonight will be to watch the late news to relax, then you’ll fall asleep on the couch, to wake up at 3am, wide awake and exhausted.  Does this look like your life?

What’s missing in this story is YOU – What’s so wrong about this story is that YOU are not in it.  Oh, you are doing everything, but really?  You take care of everything and everyone but YOU.  Not a good recipe: the key ingredient in your life, you, is missing.

Obesity, anxiety and depression feed on one another and they all feed on what we tend to forget in the flutter of the day’s demands: yourself. 

What can you do?  Le’s think smart, small, simple – successful.  Instead of thinking about just coping or getting by, we’ll go for more: to feel pretty good, with enough time and energy for what matters.  Ask yourself: what do you most need to invest in you, so you break the cycle of stress, anxiety, overeating and depression?  For you as for most Canadians, it’s probably getting more sleep.

Research of the past 10 years has shown the link between a chronic lack of sleep, obesity, anxiety and depression,  and more recent research is clear about the increase in incidence and severity of obesity with a lack of sleep (4).  Imagine yourself going about your day with very little sleep – everything stresses you out.  But after a good night sleep?  Life is beautiful.

Try something different for one week – get more sleep.  Make sleep a priority, just for ONE WEEK.  Try it.  The rules to get results are:

  • No late news, no TV, no computer, no work emails after 7pm for ONE week
  • Aim for 8.5 hours of restful/sleep bedtime, every single night, for ONE full week. Yes, it’s a lot – try it and see
  • Store your BB-iPhone in your workbag by the front door – NOT in your bedroom.  If there is a real emergency, your landline is good
  • Open your window for air, turn off the lights, close the curtains, and do whatever it takes to be able to relax and doze off – every single night, for one whole week
  • Get in bed, ready for sleep, by 9:30pm.  If you get up at 6am – adjust the time to have 8.5 hours in bed, resting and sleeping).  Ready means showered, in pj’s, with a moderately boring, mildly entertaining book (something to fall asleep on after 2 pages)
  • Did I mention no TV and no computer?  And no BB-iPhone.  I mean it
  • If you wake up at 3am and worry about tomorrow, have a notebook and write down a few words so you remember the next day – then close your eyes
  • Try deep breathing to help you fall asleep (take slow, deep breaths, aiming for 4-6 breaths a minute, for at least 5 minutes) (5)
  • It won’t happen unless YOU make it happen, right?  Plan your evening to make it happen.  Do YOU matter n your life?  Yes?  Do it.
  • Make it happen, and see for yourself the results
  • Let me know how it worked!  Email me at catherine@imagineplus.ca.  

 Read more

  1. http://www.ottawacitizen.com/health/Depression+among+executives+nearly+doubles+study+finds/8954371/story.html
  2. http://www.cmha.ca/media/fast-facts-about-mental-illness/#.Uk1nhhb-DzI
  3. http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/hp-ps/hl-mvs/oic-oac/
  4. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120417080350.htm
  5. See previous post on breathing for relaxation
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