Stress Much? ‘Tis The Season!
The number one emotion that Americans experience on daily basis is anxiety. Unlike other emotions such as fear, it doesn’t come and go. We constantly find ourselves in a state of stress and anxiety. Of course, no one wants to be stressed, but it’s inevitable and it’s become a part of our daily lives. During the holiday season, we find ourselves under more stress. Between buying gifts and planning parties, stress not only affects your relationships and life in general, it also affects your body on a chemical level.
How Does Stress Affect Your Physical Body?
Our adrenals, which are small thumb-sized glands that sit above the kidneys, are responsible for producing over 50 hormones that affect almost every bodily function, organ, and tissue. Adrenals play a major role in stress response. When your brain registers a threat, whether it is emotional, mental, or physical, the adrenals release a hormone called adrenaline. In an effort to react to the threat, this adrenaline puts the body into a “fight or flight” state, which actually temporarily shuts down your immune system and increases susceptibility to infection and disease. Additionally, heart rate and blood pressure increase, lungs require more oxygen, we experience more sugar cravings and irritability, and inflammation increases in the body due to a desensitization of cortisol, the body’s natural anti-inflammatory medicine. Adrenal fatigue affects more than 80% of the population, and most people experience adrenal fatigue at some point in their lives, whether acute or major. The goal is not to avoid ALL stress; rather change the way you react to it.
So, How Do You Combat Stress?
1. Train Yourself to React Differently
The words we say have a huge impact on our overall well-being. They also take away from your body’s natural ability to heal. You could have the cleanest diet and take the best supplements, but if your environment is toxic, your cells won’t heal. A toxic environment can be caused not only by what you are surrounded by, but also by toxic thoughts. If you constantly tell your body that you get stressed during the holidays, your body will always get stressed during the holidays. It’s like working out; when you exercise, you are training your muscles and body to be stronger. Eventually, you are able to tolerate more physical stress. It’s the same thing with your mind. Consciously working out your emotion center will allow you to emotionally tolerate more stress. Tony Robbins (famous life success coach) says; “you get what you tolerate. If you tolerate weakness and stress as your “norm”, that’s what you will settle with. If you only tolerate easiness and acceptance, that’s what you’ll receive!”
2. Better Plan Your Day
Although it is good to make long-term goals, focus on daily goals that will ultimately lead you to your long-term goals. Don’t stress about not being able to get to everything in a day or even a week. If you plan each day with a to-do list of what to get done, and then actually DO it, then the upcoming weeks, months, and years will take care of themselves. At the end of the day ask yourself, “what did I accomplish today?” This not only eliminates depression and anxiety, but keeps you motivated to get your work done the next day, and the next day after that.
3. Relax & Breathe
Set a “bed time” and get to bed on time! Your adrenals normally begin to shut down to recharge around 8 or 9 pm. This is also their healing time. For people who go to bed at midnight and wake up at 8am, still wake up tired. This is because even though they got 8 hours of sleep, their adrenals, which are the “batteries” of the body, weren’t given proper healing time. This causes fatigue, lethargy, and—you guessed it—stress. This can cause adrenal fatigue even if you are doing all the other things right! Stress activates the “fight or flight” response from the sympathetic nervous system, increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and stress hormone production. Deep breathing reverses this and relaxes the body, activating the calming response of the parasympathetic nervous system. Try to get to bed between 9-10pm and avoid strenuous exercise at night. You can also try breathing exercises and yoga routines in the evening. Ancient Chinese wisdom suggests that; every minute of sleep before midnight is worth 10 minutes of sleep after midnight! Whether you like it or not, the ideal bed time is 8 or 9 pm.
Exercise changes your biochemistry by releasing “feel good” hormones that promote positive mood and uplift your energy. These hormones include endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, and GABA. These mood-boosting benefits occur immediately following a workout and continue long term. Exercise also helps to combat stress because of a stress chemical called kynurenine. Well-trained muscles have higher levels of an enzyme that helps to metabolize kynurenine than those of people who don’t work out, suggesting that exercising your muscles helps rid your body of harmful stress chemicals. A fitness routine made by a combination of walking, weight-lifting, high-intensity workouts, yoga, meditation, and stretching is an excellent way to ensure optimal health and keep the “feel good” hormones flowing!
5. Feed Your Cells the Right Nutrition
Diet plays a huge part in adrenal health and combating most symptoms related to adrenal dysfunction. This is partly because the “foods” we are eating is exactly what we are providing our cells to use as fuel and to rebuild themselves with. Refined or simple sugar is the biggest offender. For example; 3-6 teaspoons (about 5-10 grams) of sugar shuts the immune system down for 6-8 hours! This means your body is unable to fight off bacteria, viruses, and other immune challenges that can wreak havoc on the body. Focus on in-season vegetables and fruits that feed the body vital nutrients and minerals. Foods to include in your diet are coconut products, beets, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, cabbage, pumpkin, raw nuts and seeds, berries, apples, kale, spinach and all green leafy vegetables. Fats like nuts, seeds, and nut butters are a great addition to the diet to help with weight loss and transporting nutrients. Avoid foods like sugar, microwaved foods, packaged snacks, cow’s milk, white bread, and caffeine, which stress the adrenals. If you do drink caffeine, limit your intake to 1-2 cups per day and drink them before noon.
As a bonus, here are some supplement recommendations that help to balance stress:
- Fields of Flowers
- Hormone Combination
- Bio Mood Phase
- John’s Wort
- Adrenal Support
- Cataplex B
- Cataplex G
- Methyl B12
- Magnesium Lactate
- Fish Oil (we recommend Krill oil or Tuna Omega-3)
- Acetyl L-Carnitine
- Withania Complex (Ashwagandha)
Whether you are on a program now or haven’t been in lately, ask about these items or to be checked by one of our doctors. Call 847.426.2121 for an appointment today!